Facing mounting backlash from Hollywood industry groups and prominent filmmakers, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has reversed its decision to hand out some Oscars during commercial breaks in an effort to keep the telecast to three hours in length.
The Academy had planned to give awards for four categories — Cinematography, Film Editing, Live-Action Short, and Makeup and Hairstyling — during commercial breaks. The winners' speeches would have then been edited into the live broadcast later in the show, with everything else around the award — especially the winner walking to the stage — edited out.
Under the plan, four to six categories would have also been selected on a rotation to be handed out during breaks in future telecasts. When the Academy first announced the decision to air certain categories during ad breaks in August 2018, it was met with skepticism, but that grew to an uproar after the Academy announced on Monday which specific categories wouldn't make the live broadcast, spurring a wave of backlash from professional groups and other industry players.
"Deep-sixing cinematography and editing, much less hair and makeup, was a brain-dead decision when those are two of the most essential movie making arts, and prominent directors were guaranteed to go public and fight it," said one member of the Academy to BuzzFeed News, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Oscar-nominated Roma director Alfonso Cuarón was one of them, tweeting on Tuesday: "In the history of CINEMA, masterpieces have existed without sound, without color, without a story, without actors and without music. No one single film has ever existed without CINEMAtography and without editing."
Oscar-winning actor Russell Crowe tweeted that the choice to move certain awards to commercial break was "fundamentally stupid."
"The place is totally dysfunctional because they make decisions in secret and never actually talk to their members, even though it’s supposed to be serving the members," the Academy member told BuzzFeed News.
Earlier this week, the Academy blamed the backlash on "inaccurate reporting and social media posts" and a "chain of misinformation that has understandably upset many Academy members."
The format reversal comes just nine days before the 91st Academy Awards air on Feb. 24 on ABC, and could mean that viewers will indeed watch a telecast that extends beyond three hours. The Academy has been trying to find ways to tinker with and shorten the ceremony to address the show's steady decline in ratings. Last year, the telecast had its smallest-ever audience, with 26.5 million viewers. That was down from 2017, when 32.9 million viewers tuned in.
As someone familiar with the nature of Oscar telecasts put it to BuzzFeed News, "The Academy made it very clear they were chasing ratings. Make a great show, and let the chips fall where they fall."
Kate Aurthur contributed reporting to this story.