How the Popular Kids Save Oscar Ratings
Cruise, Cameron, Elvis and the 25-year data behind audience bumps and blockbuster nominees
In case you haven’t been paying attention, the Oscars have a problem.
Ratings are down.
The strategic fix is pretty straightforward and has been widely suggested: nominate more popular films!
As my colleagues have discussed, live audiences love high stakes, something the NFL has figured out (drama, fandom, rivalry!). Academy voters typically vote for the film equivalents of the Jacksonville Jaguars — not the Dallas Cowboys or San Francisco 49ers.
In other words, over the last decade, the Academy has consistently nominated niche (polite-ese for “less popular”) prestige films for Best Picture and the ratings have suffered. Yes, I know this is conflating art with commerce. But again, they don’t call it “show art”. And TV ratings — a metric on which the Academy’s $100 million a year license fee with Disney/ABC rests — really matter: with the survival of that fee, so does the livelihood of the Academy.
So how did the more than 10,000 members of the Academy do this time with its June 24 nominations? Did they get it right?
In terms of giving the show its best shot at a big audience, they nominated three popular films ($100M+ box office), two of which are gigantic blockbusters, out of 10 Best Picture nominees. I won’t say that this year will save the Oscars, but it’s a great test to figure out, if not the movies, then the other issues at play.
In this edition you’ll learn…
How the first Avatar, Gravity, Toy Story 3 and other hit movies helped the Oscars telecast’s ratings in years past
The aggregate popularity of this year’s Best Picture nominees
Why everyone who works in this business should care about the Oscars’ success