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The Oscars Go Virtual


BY PETER PARKER • December 15, 2020

The last couple of months of every year are notable in the film fraternity as being the time when the awards machinery clicks into gear. Movie premieres and screenings are held, with numerous attempts being made to sway both audiences and jury members, ahead of the high-profile awards season that kicks off as the new year begins, with the Oscars being the ultimate ambition. However, this year’s campaign is set to be different, as the movie industry deals with the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Of course, the movies are not alone in having felt the impact of this pandemic. Daily life has been disrupted to an unprecedented level, and it will take a long time before normalcy is restored. In such a time, it is technology which has come to our rescue wherever possible, making working from home a reality, for example, and many sectors owe their continued survival to the advance and usage of technology. One of the best examples of this is the casino industry, which would have been decimated if it were not for the existence of online casinos. People were able to move to playing casino games online, with their favorite physical venues having to close down due to the pandemic, and many sites have now begun to offer players the ability to play games such as live roulette, poker, blackjack and other table games from the comfort and safety of their homes. This is just one example to show how technology has had an impact on the wider entertainment industry, and movies have been no different.

This year’s campaign for the Oscars and other prestigious awards have been very different. There have been no red carpet events, no interviews and photo opportunities, at least physically, and therefore a complete lack of the ‘buzz’ which usually begins to start around this time of the year. This is also down to the fact that many movies have been delayed, due to the theaters not being allowed to open, and thus the field is also quite narrow this year. However, the Academy has dealt with this by pushing the ceremony back by two months, to April 25th, and thereby increasing the window for qualification as well.

One of the biggest challenges is also to keep Academy members and others hooked, as they will be watching the movies at home rather than at a screening, and therefore will have to deal with the distractions that come with it. Thus, the majority of an awards campaign, which aims to get people to watch the movie on a big screen, has gone virtual this year. Another issue is to keep movies relevant until the delayed ceremony. Usually, people would watch the movies during the festive season and cast their votes in January, with the Oscars being held in February. However, this year, that will take place in March, so it will be a challenge to keep contenders in the minds of jury members till then, especially without physical screenings.

However, the nature of this year’s roster means that many smaller movies may have a shot at the awards, since quite a few contenders have been delayed so far. The lack of cinema releases means that there is no audience reaction, both in terms of reviews as well as box-office earnings, to serve as a barometer for quality, and thus the hope is that this may allow the Oscars to be more inclusive this year. It will also allow Netflix to potentially dominate, after close calls with Roma and The Irishman in past seasons. There are at least three best picture candidates from Netflix this year, and this could be a sign of the years to come, with streaming beginning to dominate over actual theatre releases.

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