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The Oscars They Are A Changin'
by Christopher Stone

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Oscar is looking to Goose Up His Ratings.

Oscar is looking to Goose Up His Ratings.
First things first: Ratings are the box-office of television. So, when we hear that the Oscars they are a changing,' you can bet your last dollar that a primary reason for change is to boost ratings, the box-office of television.

For as long as most of us can remember, each of Oscar's nominees for Best Picture of the Year had a one in five, twenty percent chance, of going home with the gold. Match-Flickers, that's about to change. When the Golden Statuettes are handed out next March 7, at the Kodak Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard, the odds of winning will be cut in half for the Best Picture nominees.

But wait; there's more.

For 2010, the Oscars will be held the first Sunday in March rather than on the last Sunday in February, as per the last few years. The Academy doesn't want its Big Night to clash with the closing ceremonies of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada. According to Sid Ganis, President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, "Why have two gigantic, spectacular events happen on the same day, especially these
And So He's Moving Out of The Olympics' Closing.

And So He's Moving Out of The Olympics' Closing.

Off the record, the most likely reason for the February to March shift is to prevent the Olympics from cannibalizing the audience, and therefore the ratings, of Hollywood's Biggest Event.

This date change from February to March is interesting, especially to Match-Flickers who prefer the condensed award season of the past few years.

However, Oscars' biggest news for 2010 is that there will be ten, not five, nominees in the Best Picture category. Yes, after more than 60 years, the Academy is returning to some of its earlier roots, when a wider field competed for the top award of the year.

I didn't know this; perhaps, you didn't either. Long, long ago, before the current generation of Match-Flickers were rushing to that multiplex box-office near us, back in the 1930s and 1940s, the Academy recognized 8 to 12 Best Picture nominees each year. In the end, however, the outcome remains the same: When the 10 nominees cross the finish line, there will be only one winner.

When announcing the change, Academy president Ganis assured, "We will
He's Fixing to Nominate 10 Best Pictures.

He's Fixing to Nominate 10 Best Pictures.
be casting our net wide." He made it abundantly clear that no changes are being made to other Oscar categories. He also assured that the Best Picture nominees would not be broken into subdivisions, as is done with the Golden Globes, which are awarded for best drama, and for best comedy or musical.

Ganis explains the decision to widen Oscar's net in 2010 is the result of post-show analysis of the February 2009 Oscar-cast. Last winter's broadcast drew a larger audience than its immediate predecessors. The Academy believes that the heftier ratings for last February's program was due, in part, to the show's effort to include widely publicized tributes to very popular flicks that weren't among the Best Picture nominees.

Let's face it, Match-Flickers. You're much likelier to tune in to the Oscar show if the movies you know and loved are being hailed and honored, rather than a small group of "artsy" efforts that you didn't see or care to see.

Additionally, when the academy began preparing a retrospective of the films of 1939, research revealed that
The Academy and Oscar Hope You'll Watch, March 7.

The Academy and Oscar Hope You'll Watch, March 7.
between 1931 and 1943, the academy usually had somewhere between 8 and 12 Best Picture nominees each year.

Thus, increasing the Best Picture nominees from 5 to 10 became a double win for Oscar's academy. On the one hand, the academy would be perceived as returning to its Hollywood's Golden Age roots. On the other hand, broadening the field to include a few popular, if not artistic, hits will most likely increase the show's ratings and revenue.

Is there a downside? I can think of only one. This year, we'll have to sit through clips of 10 nominated Best Pictures, not five, increasing the length of an already overlong telecast. Still, the academy claims that ABC-TV is happily jazzed about the change from 5 Best Picture nominees to 10.

The Oscar nominations will be announced on Tuesday, February 2, Groundhog Day. Along with the academy's "artsy-fartsy" picks, which popular hits would you like to see among the 10 Best Picture nominees? The academy is listening; in the end, it's all about doing whatever it takes to get Match-Flickers to watch.

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The Business of Show
Every other Friday

Does advertising, public taste, or overindulged stars determine a movie's box office fate? Christoper Stone explores what's going on behind the box office.

Other Columns
Other columns by Christopher Stone:

The Cautionary Box-Office

Box-Office Holiday Season Heads Up. Part Two

Box-Office Holiday Season Heads Up, Part 1

Quality Is Independent

Oh, the Horror!

All Columns

Christopher Stone
Christopher Stone is the author of the international best seller Re-Creating Your Self. With Mary Sheldon, he co-authored three highly successful hardcover books of guided meditations.

He is a member of the Writers Guild of America, West.

If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, you can send a message to Christopher Stone by clicking here.

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