The most widely circulated headline about the 93rd Academy Awards was the extremely low ratings for the broadcast. This year’s unusual presentation capped off an unusual year, and drew only 9.8M viewers, down 60% from last year’s program 14 months ago. The show was also impacted by numerous COVID related challenges, with arrival, entrance and seating organized to ensure proper social distancing for the stars. A notable scheduling miscue was the Academy’s decision to move the “Best Actor” award to the end of the program, with the expectation the late Chadwick Boseman would win for his performance in Ma Raney’s Black Bottom which would end the program on a sentimental note. However, Anthony Hopkins wound up winning in the category for his role in The Father. Alas, Hopkins was not present in person to accept the award, and presenter Joaquin Phoenix simply stated this fact and announced the end of the show.
While this was a noteworthy anticlimax to a challenging year, the downward trend for the Oscars and most other major awards programs have been well documented and cannot be written off as a COVID problem. One important factor in this spiral down is the fact that audiences are less and less familiar with the films receiving nominations. Variety’s Owen Gleiberman suggests, “Here’s the real way to solve the Oscar problem…Hollywood has to rediscover a way to do two things at once: 1) make crowd-pleasing films that are artful acts of storytelling not aimed at 14-year-olds; and 2) nominate those movies for Oscars.”
See also: The Best and Worst Moments of the 2021 Oscars (NY Times)