Editor’s note: Mooky Greidinger is CEO of the world’s second-largest exhibitor, Cineworld, which also owns Regal in the U.S. A staunch supporter of the theatrical experience, Greidinger grew up in the industry and is avowedly passionate about the movie business. But as Oscars weekend arrives, he is confounded by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, as, in his words, “many of the largest and most influential films of today remain unrecognized.” Greidinger penned the guest column below in which he calls for the Academy Board to convene an “industry emergency committee… to brainstorm and identify a more sustainable solution.”
For more than a decade, we have seen the Academy Awards ceremony deteriorate and its cultural power wane, losing ratings and consumer interest not only in the U.S. but worldwide. Oscar Night was once the biggest event for our industry and for all cinemagoers — an opportunity to celebrate the most beloved movies and performances that millions experienced together in theaters over the past year, as well as to introduce an international consumer audience to smaller independent and foreign features that they may not have had access to otherwise.
In past years, the spectacle of the Oscars remained firmly in the zeitgeist, driving conversations at office water coolers, on the morning news and among friends for days following the announcement of the Academy’s nominations, and the event itself. If you were to survey people 10 or even 20 years ago about recent Best Picture winners, many would have had the answer. Unfortunately, if you made the same survey today, a disappointing few would be able to name even one or two. In fact, a recent Morning Consult survey found that a majority of American adults were only familiar with two of this year’s 10 Best Picture nominees — Dune and West Side Story — both of which are adaptations of widely popular stories.
After more than a decade of deterioration and disappearing relevance, the Oscar ceremony reminds me more and more of Hans Christian Andersen’s famous folktale The Emperor’s New Clothes, in which pride and fear prevent an entire community — all but a young child — from speaking up and revealing the truth. My passion and love for the industry urges me to be that child, shouting loudly, “THE KING IS NAKED!” As I look at the media coverage and critiques of recent weeks, I see am not the only “kid” sounding this alarm.
The last straw, which led me to write this piece, was this year’s list of nominations. In 2009, the Academy increased the number of films that can be nominated for Best Picture from five to 10, with the intention of giving more movies the chance to win. Yet, despite the expansion, many of the largest and most influential films of today remain unrecognized.
The theatrical release of Spider-Man: No Way Home has had a tremendously positive impact on our industry: reinvigorating Covid-era theater attendance, ranking as the third-highest-grossing film of all time in North America and being the most audience-recognized and watched film, according to Morning Consult. With such resounding support from global audiences, I find it hard to believe Spider-Man did not deserve a place among one of these 10 Best Picture nominees. Similarly, No Time to Die, the latest entry in the James Bond franchise, was a global phenomenon, and yet not considered by the Academy as one of the 10 top movies of the year. How disconnected can the Academy be from the cinema experience that it is supposed to celebrate and award?
Years ago, it was a given that, in the days following the Academy Awards ceremony, the winning films would experience a significant box office spike (even Titanic, which had experienced a huge box office achievement prior to the Oscars, received a significant increase in ticket sales after securing 11 wins at the 1998 Oscars). Today, the influence of the Oscars on box office is close to zero because of the vast disconnect between what moviegoing audiences want to see and who the Academy chooses to honor, demonstrating how insignificant the award has become to the general public.
The Oscar has been one of our great symbols of the cinematic culture and our industry, but it loses more and more significance every year. We need to return the awards to our industry and to our global community of cinemagoers to ensure a wider range of remarkable films — from mainstream box office hits to independent and foreign films — are able to be recognized as Best Picture nominees.
Rather than haphazardly trying to resurrect audience engagement with a “fan favorite” consolation award, we must prioritize reshaping the Academy so that it better represents the global film community as it is intended to.
With that, I call upon the Academy Board to convene a new “industry emergency committee” that includes representation from studios, talent representatives, exhibition and more to brainstorm and identify a more sustainable solution. This change cannot come soon enough: the theatrical business is a huge international business and the Academy should bring back the glory days when every cinema-lover in the world was looking forward with great enthusiasm towards the nominations and later to the awards.