My good colleague Pete Hammond tells us the film awards season is in full swing, live and in-person. Screenings. Panels. Parties. Lunch with the stars. Just like 2019.
Now, if the audience would only catch up.
This weekend, an extremely important connection got missed, as Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story, meant to be a crowd-pleaser, stumbled into theaters with $10.5 million in ticket sales. Even allowing for Covid, this isn’t enough. A wide release from both Disney/20th Century and a master director was supposed to wake the audience up. Now, the film will have to slow-walk through the holidays, accumulating viewers the hard way, with a campaign that will stretch all the way to Oscar night, March 27.
For Adam McKay’s Don’t Look Up, a star-laden satire (DiCaprio, Lawrence, Streep, Hill, Blanchett, Perry, Grande, Perlman), by contrast, ticket sales aren’t the issue. The picture is only in a small number of theaters, and it hits Netflix on Christmas Eve. No, the problem is that lousy Rotten Tomatoes score, 55 percent at last sight. Critics are telling people don’t bother, whatever the viewing format. This won’t put the audience in sync with those busy, buzzy awards professionals.
Neither will the Golden Globes nominations, to be disclosed tomorrow morning via livestream from the Beverly Hilton. The announcement will extend what has become one of the weirder episodes in recent awards history. Publicists and talent, after pursuing Globes for decades, are suddenly shunning them over claims of racism and other bad behavior. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which bestows the awards, has tried to reform. But NBC is declining to broadcast the prize ceremony on Jan. 9.
Righteous, perhaps; but there’s not much in it for the viewers.
In fact, we approach the year’s end in a deeply cleft reality. The movies are great (at least that’s what the awards pros tell us). But people aren’t excited—not enough to join the party by visiting the local multiplex.
Of course, there’s still time to bridge the gap, lest the awards industry repeat last season’s debacle, in which the Oscar audience fell to 10.4 million (a million less, we are reminded, than the National Dog Show), and ABC negotiated a first-ever reduction in its payment for the broadcast.
But someone has to do something, soon.
We’re told that one Very Big Movie Director has privately floated the notion of hiring a much larger Academy Awards venue, and inviting the public—or some part of it—into the ceremony. That might work. It can’t hurt to let the customers have some fun.
Or maybe the nominees could bring their dogs on Oscar night. That should get the numbers up by at least a million.
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