Are Winter Olympic Games Forcing 2014 Oscars Into March?

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Are Winter Olympic Games Forcing 2014 Oscars Into March?
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Are Winter Olympic Games Forcing 2014 Oscars Into March?

Are the Oscars moving even later into March next year? All signs say ‘yes’ and the Academy would be wise to announce this sooner than later.

Despite annual (and always wrong) media speculation (including a recent column in a well-known show biz trade) that the Academy Awards are planning to move a month earlier into January insiders have repeatedly told me the Academy’s Board has no taste for that, and as at least one former top officer in the organization told me over the weekend, contractually they can’t  do it.

Though they haven’t yet announced any dates for the next Oscar race, the schedule of the Winter Olympics being held in Sochi, Russia February 7 through the 23rd puts a big crimp in any plans to keep the Oscars even on in its current berth on the last Sunday of February where it would run smack into the Closing Night ceremonies. In the past when this has come up the Academy has always moved the Oscar show to the first Sunday in March which would be on the 2nd next year. Quite frankly there is nowhere else for the show to go. Do the math.

With the Super Bowl already claiming Sunday February 2nd and the Olympics taking the remaining three Sundays, the earliest date available would be January 26th and every source with whom I have spoken tells me that is the date CBS is claiming for the Grammys next year (moving two weeks earlier than their February 10, 2013 date). Also getting the message are the major show biz Guilds which have all already staked out their 2014 dates and sprayed the territory.

SAG jumped the gun on February 8 and quickly announced their show would be Saturday January 18, a week earlier than usual. On February 21, the Producers Guild  followed and took Sunday January 19, also a week earlier than this year’s event was held. Last week the Directors Guild announced they too would go a week earlier than 2013 and will present their awards on January 25. A top executive with one of those guilds told me they have been assured by Academy officials that the Oscars will move on to that March 2nd date, so no conflict is expected and there will likely be an even bigger gap than usual between the guild shows and the Oscars. Of course the Golden Globes will almost definitely stay on the weekend where they usually reside, and so Sunday January 12th is their likely date (but not yet announced).

With the difficulties Academy members encountered seeing everything in time to vote for nominations which were moved up to a January 10th announcement this year (with voting taking place over the holidays Dec 17-Jan 4), it is just not feasible to move the actual Oscar show any earlier than it already is, and top sources in the Academy tell me ABC also has a lot to say about the date too. Contractually the Academy has to adhere to certain guidelines regarding the date.

And with ratings up for this year’s Seth MacFarlane-hosted show, the pressure to move for ratings improvements would seem to be off for this year at least. The fact that the Academy smartly had six weeks instead of four between nominations and the show also allowed the nominated films more playing time in theaters and grosses increased markedly. Silver Linings Playbook for instance nearly doubled its gross and shot over $100 million in that period. The longer gap actually turned out to be good news for exhibitors and that was part of the Academy’s thinking in allowing more time for distributors to exploit their nominations. It also probably actually helped the ratings by giving the viewers more time to see the nominated films and develop a rooting interest. Six of the nine Best Picture nominees grossed well over $100 million and a seventh (Zero Dark Thirty) almost hit the mark.

With a March 2nd Oscar show all but a done deal, it will be interesting to see what date the Academy chooses to announce their nominations next year. With one more week to play with they could give more time up front and announce around January 16th and still have that six-week period leading up to the show. Of course they could also choose to keep the nomination announcement just three days before the Globes as they did this year. Many observers thought the Academy did this in part to blunt attention for the rival Golden Globes, but in fact it may have inadvertently brought even more attention to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s show as ratings for that NBC juggernaut were up 17% from the previous edition and the highest in six years.

At any rate it’s looking like exactly one year from today we will all be nursing our Monday morning Oscar hangover and celebrating the end of an even longer awards season.

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