Oscars set for return to normal, except all the changes

The Academy Awards roll out the red carpet at the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles for the first time in two years

The Academy Awards roll out the red carpet at the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles for the first time in two years

For the first time in two years, the Academy Awards are rolling out the red carpet at the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles for what the Academy of Arts hopes will be a regular Oscar. Except all the things that have changed.

The 94th Academy Awards airs, as usual, at 8 p.m. EDT on ABC. But otherwise, there’s little traditional about how this year’s Oscars will kick off. An hour before the broadcast begins, attendees gather in the Dolby for the presentation of eight awards and accolades that will be edited into what producer Will Packer has promised will be three tight hours.

It’s one of many shifts, both minor and tectonic, surrounding this year’s ceremony. After a two-year pandemic — and a socially distancing 2021 edition with record-low ratings — the Academy Awards will try to recapture their lofty place in pop culture with a revamped broadcast that is expected to see a streaming service win best picture for the first time.

It won’t be easy. The film industry recovered significantly from the 2021 pandemic, but despite one of its biggest hits in years in “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” the recovery has been unsettled. The global movie industry sold about half of its tickets last year, as it did two years ago, $21.3 billion in 2021 compared to $42.3 billion in 2019, according to the Motion Picture Association. Hollywood pushed more of its blockbusters straight into the house than ever before; half of the 10 nominees for this year’s best picture were streamed on or very near release. Even film school completely shifted to a voter streaming platform, rather than DVD screeners.

Then there are the challenges of attracting global attention for a night of Hollywood self-congratulations after two years of the pandemic and as the Russian war ravages Ukraine. Packer has said the war in Ukraine will be recognized with respect during the broadcast.

Netflix’s “The Power of the Dog,” Jane Campion’s gothic western, comes in with a leading 12 nominations and a good shot at taking home the top prize. But all the momentum is in Sian Heder’s deaf family drama ‘CODA’, which is considered the favorite despite only three nods. A win would be a triumph for Apple TV+, which acquired the film from last year’s Sundance Film Festival and invested heavily in promoting it to academy members.

But expect most of the awards that night to go to “Dune,” Denis Villeneuve’s compelling science fiction epic. It’s the odds-on favorite to clear up in the tech categories.

After several years without a host, the Oscars will turn to the trio of Amy Schumer, Wanda Sykes and Regina Hall to lead the broadcast, which will also be streamed on platforms such as Hulu Live TV, YouTubeTV and on ABC.com with provider authentication. Producers have also lined up a star-studded roster of performers, including Billie Eilish and Beyoncé to sing nominated songs, while the “Encanto” cast will perform Lin-Manuel Miranda’s breakthrough hit “We Don’t Talk About Bruno.”

It will be a staggered start, with stars making their way to the Dolby at different times. ABC’s red carpet preshow runs from 6:30 PM to 8:00 PM, and the first hour of the awards ceremony takes place at the theater between 7:00 PM and 8:00 PM. The news about these winners will be spread on social media first and then woven into the broadcast later. To accommodate the shift, the red carpet will also open an hour earlier than usual, at 4pm East.

The redesigned approach, which was very unpopular with some academy members, should lead to complicated logistics on the red carpet. Wanting to give each winner an uncompromising moment, the academy urges attendees to be in their seats before 7pm. Some stars, such as Jessica Chastain, nominated for “The Eyes of Tammy Faye,” have said they won’t do red carpet interviews if it means missing out on awards like best hair and makeup, for which the artists of “Tammy Faye” have been nominated.

That’s one of eight pre-show categories given out during what producers call the “golden hour.” The others are: Film Editing, Sound, Original Score, Production Design, Live-Action Short, Animated Short, and Documentary Short.

Earlier this month, more than 70 Oscar winners, including James Cameron, Kathleen Kennedy and Guillermo del Toro, warned that the change would make some nominees “second-class citizens.”

Behind the change is alarm about the rapidly declining ratings of the Oscars. While drops were common on all major network prize shows, last year’s show only attracted about 10 million viewers, less than half of the 23.6 million the year before. A decade ago it was closer to 40 million.

To help restore the Oscars’ standings, some argued in the run-up to this year’s awards that a blockbuster like “Spider-Man: No Way Home” should have been nominated for best picture. It’s all about visual effects.

Instead, it searches for a wide variety of films ranging from the highly-watched Netflix apocalyptic comedy “Don’t Look Up” and the critically acclaimed three-hour Japanese drama “Drive My Car.”

One thing the producers have promised: the last prize of the evening will be the best photo. Last year’s show ended awkwardly with the unexpected Best Actor award to an absent Anthony Hopkins.


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