Did We Even Care About the Oscars? How the Pandemic Accelerated Our Disinterest in Awards Season

Photo Courtesy: A.M.P.A.S.

Don’t blame Anthony Hopkins. The 93rd Oscars were a dud even before he unexpectedly won Best Actor and the ceremony had to end without a speech — he was sleeping at home in Wales. The producers of the show had bet on the late Chadwick Boseman winning that category and seemed to want to end the show on a very emotional note. So, they switched the order — Best Picture is traditionally considered the big prize and the last to be awarded — and left the Best Actor category for last. It didn’t pay off.

That was just the last on a long list of attempts. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (A.M.P.A.S.) has pulled out all the stops to keep the show going. In June of last year, they announced the 93rd Oscars would air April 25, 2021, two full months after the initially planned date of February 28. Following months of theater closures, the Academy wanted to give studios more time to release their films. They made films released on streaming eligible for the Oscars and extended the date movies could be released until February 28, 2021.

That wasn’t all. After hiring the resourceful filmmaker Steven Soderbergh as one of this year’s Oscars producers — with Stacey Sher and Jesse Collins — it was announced Zooming in for the show wouldn’t be an option — probably the reason why the 83-year-old Hopkins didn’t even make a virtual appearance. He also didn’t expect to win. The Academy wanted an in-person ceremony that would be treated as a film or TV production, with maskless nominees and presenters. There were also multiple reports about this year’s ceremony being something "completely different" from what we’ve seen in years past.

Yet the audience didn’t seem to care enough about it. Even before the pandemic, the odds were already against the Academy. Ratings had been on a steady decline since 2014. Last year, 23.6 million people watched the ceremony — 44% less than in 2014. This year, the awards drew a meager 9.8 million viewers. That’s 58% less than last year’s low numbers.

And the Oscars is not the only awards ceremony that seems to be falling out of fashion. The Grammys only attracted an audience of 8.8 million viewers this year, a 53% drop compared to the previous year’s show. The Golden Globes fared even worse. The troublesome Globes — with most of the nominees and winners connecting remotely — lost 62% of its audience, with just 6.9 million viewers watching this year’s ceremony.