I realize that this is a Hollywood event, that it’s meant to be at night. But after all, the broadcast is on a Sunday. Why not play it Super Bowl style, and start early? I made it through the end of the broadcast, but two days later, both my energy and work are still suffering from it. And these symptoms cause me—a lifelong fan—to wonder whether I’ll watch again.
Think I’m alone? Sunday evening I joined a theater’s viewing party. The attendees were movie nuts who shouted out answers to trivia, even correctly naming Marlon Brando’s 1973 stand-in. Dressed in suits and floor-length gowns and rhinestones, they were bubbly and thrilled to be in the company of their fellow enthusiasts. About 11:30 p.m., when my friend, a mother of two young kids, reluctantly left, I observed who remained. The initially packed theater was nearly empty, with only a few partiers and a group of those past retirement age left. The majority of my middle-aged and younger peers had departed.
And these are your fans.
When my alarm woke me less than five hours into sleep the next morning and I tried to assemble my wits, I started to wonder why my demographic— the working members of your East Coast viewership—isn’t considered more. I hear so much about attracting new viewers. I’d like to hear more concern about retaining those you have. Longtime enthusiasts around me have already stopped watching. They have meetings and children and can’t afford to kill a week’s productivity by staying up till midnight on a Sunday. It wasn’t easy for them to make time for those eight movies—if they did—to begin with.
Your greatest potential for growth has never been a better host or smarter orchestration; it always has been the influence of Oscar lovers. We watch because our parents did, our aunts, our grandmothers and grandfathers. We watch because our friends host parties, and enthusiasm for film has always been contagious. We watch because we love the Oscars, in spite of our frequent desire to modify both the show and nominees. This year, I did my part, increasing your numbers by luring a busy mom to the theater, knowing she’d like the show—and the late hour—more than my sleep-loving husband had. She primped for a week, sent me excited messages and texts in the days before. But as 10:30 approached with so much of the ceremony yet to go, I witnessed her energy wane and started to wonder if I had sold her a bad product. And what’s the chance her kids will ever get addicted, even when they’re a bit older, with bed times before the show has even begun?
Of course, there are ways you can shorten the ceremony as well: Trim down the hoopla to focus on the awards. Only hire improv specialists (i.e., comedians) as hosts; they can quip rather than relying on lengthy scripted gags. Cut all musical performances but the intro. (Short clips before the best song is awarded are sufficient; yes, this year’s rousing “Glory” performance was exceptional, but usually, the songs are filler.) Kill the refresher clips on the best film nominees; a snippet is insufficient for those who haven’t seen them, and redundant for those who have. Move up the Best Actor and Actress awards to refresh energy at the halfway point. But even with no other changes at all, an earlier start time would help East Coasters make it to the finale, and thus be motivated to watch the show.
Of course, to reach a wider audience, it’s important that you reassess a bias against sci-fi and fantasy, to which my students (your target youth demographic) attributed their disinterest in the broadcast. The lack of representation for any but historical minority-focused films among nominees each year, and so few female-driven ones, is obviously an issue of deeper, and terribly important concern. But as you’re resolving these weightier issues, I beg of you, if you want to keep East Coasters watching, let us get some sleep.