Decline of award shows

Audrey William, Community Editor

The Oscars were founded in 1929 as an award show that recognizes excellence in the film industry. The awards are separated into 24 categories, ranging from Best Actor in a Leading Role to Best Sound Editing. Throughout the years, the Oscars have been one of the most beloved award ceremonies, but views have plummeted in recent years. 

In 2021, the Oscars had the lowest viewings in history with only 10.4 million watchers. This is a 56% drop in viewers when compared to the 23.6 million viewers in 2020. Similarly, the 2021 Emmys had the lowest viewings in the history of the Television Academy with only 5.1 million viewers, a 14% drop from 2020. The Grammys also faced this predicament. Such shocking reductions in ratings raises a bemusing question: are people getting bored of watching celebrities earn awards or is there something else at play?

There are a number of factors contributing to the notable drops in ratings. The Academy recorded a 60% drop in viewers ages 18-49 years old, the targeted age group for advertisers. This left younger viewers as the secondary target demographic. However, unlike older audiences, they are usually unwilling to sit through hours of commercials when watching the Oscars live. 

Additionally, some have criticized Hollywood for using grand awards ceremonies to make political stances. For instance, Regina King, who opened the Oscars in 2021, used the opportunity to shed light on the racial injustices in America by highlighting the murder of George Floyd in 2020. Generally, people don’t enjoy seeing politics and controversial societal issues mixed with entertainment.

Furthermore, viewers were upset by the lack of diversity amongst nominees. The 2021 nominees had viewers hopeful about Hollywood’s strides toward more inclusivity, but many were disappointed with this year’s nominations. Only four Black actors earned nominations this year, while a record-breaking number of nine people of color received nominations in 2021.

Consequently, Hollywood is struggling. In 2021, box office ratings were at an all time low due to reduced Oscars viewings, and with the pandemic, things only got worse. When a film earns an Oscars nomination, box office numbers, ratings and profit skyrocket. With a lack of viewers, movies aren’t able to earn these boosts and the film industry suffers.

With staggering declines in awards show viewings, the Oscars have enacted plans to boost ratings for the 2022 awards ceremony. In order to appease those upset about lack of representation, the Academy has implemented new inclusion standards that producers must follow to participate in the ceremony. These criterias assist underrepresented groups in the entertainment industry, including women, LGBTQ+, and people of color both on and off screen to represent the diversity of their audiences. This gives minority groups recognition for their hard work.

Despite the Oscars’ efforts, the initiative draws criticism.

“There’s been a lot of talk about how the changes won’t really change anything,” said creator of the #OscarsSoWhite movement, April Reign. “A film like ‘Gone With the Wind’ could still qualify, and we know that’s not necessarily the best arbiter of race relations in this country. So it sounds good, but when you peel back the curtain a little bit, it’s the same little old white man at the controls, making decisions that are best for him and not for the industry that he serves.”

Additionally, the Oscars are having three hosts instead of one this year (Amy Schumer, Regina Hall and Wanda Sykes) to entice audiences to tune in. Fans also have the chance to vote for their favorite movie of 2021 on Twitter with the hashtag #OscarsFanFavorite. As an incentive for people to participate, three people will be chosen for an all expenses paid trip to Los Angeles to present an Oscar in the 2023 ceremony. The movie with the most votes will be featured during the 2022 telecast. 

With so many new changes being implemented, we will have to wait and see how audiences will react when the 94th Oscars awards ceremony airs live on March 27.