I hate to say I TOLDJA but the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences today announced its Oscar season schedule for 2014 and, predictably, with the Winter Olympics and the Super Bowl taking every Sunday in February, the Academy moved the Oscar show to the first Sunday in March, the 2nd, as forecast here in a column on March 4th. I also predicted it would give them the opportunity to allow more time for seeing movies by moving the nominations back a week from where they were this year on January 10th (two weeks earlier than usual), and the Academy has done just that, moving the voting period back to where it has been in previous years with ballots going out December 27 and due back on January 8th (for 2013 ballots were mailed December 17 and came back January 4).
There were complaints from members that there just wasn’t enough time to see all the movies and then vote in that two week Holiday period, especially with so many other distractions of the season. This gives the Academy a lot more breathing room in making nominations but still allows for a six-week period between the announcement and the due date of February 25 for final ballots. This is important because it gives the public a lot more time to see the nominated movies and pleases exhibitors who have two extra weeks to exploit those nominations. Clearly it’s a strategy that paid off this year with most of the nine Best Picture nominees being released in November and December (although eventual Best Picture winner Argo came out in October), and six, almost seven of them, grossed well over $100 million as opposed to only one film, The Help in the previous year. In the six-week nominations period Silver Linings Playbook actually doubled its gross, a feat credited to its strong showing with Oscar.
What wasn’t expected in today’s announcement was that the Academy would also put to rest any speculation about moving the 2015 show earlier into January by breaking tradition and announcing their show date of February 22nd for that year as well. Despite my consistent reports here that the Acad’s Board Of Governors has “no taste” for jumping to an earlier date, other media keep speculating they will do just that. That has never been the case, at least according to the Academy execs with whom I have spoken. Contractually there are restrictions the Academy has in that regard with its ABC broadcast partner who has a say in all this too.
With improved ratings for the Seth MacFarlane-hosted telecast this year the Academy obviously feels comfortable in not rocking the boat and sending awards season into a tailspin by moving any earlier so we can calm the speculation for at least a couple of years, and members will have more time to do what really counts – see the movies before they have to vote.