Hello, it is I, Chicken Little, to tell you a little more about how the sky is falling! We’ve already covered the fata morgana that is Spider-Man: No Way Home’s success and the box office, and now we need to talk about AWARDS SEASON. Oh, did you think the 2021 awards season was a nightmare? Well, 2022 is here to say, “Hold my beer, bitches, and buckle the f-ck up.” Let's get started.
First up, a list of everything that is cancelled:
- The BAFTA Tea Party
- The Grammys
- The Palm Springs Film Festival, typically the official kickoff of awards season
- The AFI Awards Luncheon
- The Critics’ Choice Awards
- The National Board of Review Gala
- The Governors Awards
- And most recently, the Sundance Film Festival went virtual, which isn't exactly award season but doesn't bode well for more live events
Some of these events will be rescheduled “at a later date”, but there’s no telling when, and what will be in-person versus remote versus restricted guest access, et cetera. What is clear is that the awards season calendar is a goddamn mess, and we’re in for a massive pile up of events circa late February/early March. The Oscars are still scheduled for March 27.
Speaking of the Oscars, their ratings are doomed.
Last year hit an all-time ratings low, with a meager 10 million viewers, not even enough to crack the Top 100 Telecasts list for the year, despite ranking #2 in 2020. There is absolutely nothing that suggests 2022 will be any better, and no, they won’t nominate Spider-Man: No Way Home in the hopes of ginning up the viewership. If anything, the grimmer the conversation about the Oscars’ ratings has gotten over the years, the more determinedly the Academy nominates depressing films no one has seen. Sure, there are breakthroughs like Black Panther or The Shape of Water, a Best Picture winner that was also a $100 million dollar hit, but just as viewers are shifting to streaming films primarily at home, the Academy is shifting to preferring an artistic echo chamber over broadly appealing films as their meat and potatoes.
You can blame the host, or lack thereof, for dips in the ratings, but the metrics reveal when popular movies get major nominations, the ratings tick up. People recognize a film they enjoyed, like Black Panther, on the nominee list, and they’re more likely to tune into the Oscars. Nominate a slate of films no one has heard of, no matter how good and worthy those films are, and people tune out. And this year, we are guaranteed a slate of films no one has seen. Even though there are a lot of good movies worth nominating, audiences didn’t turn out for West Side Story, Belfast, or Spencer, all films that, once upon a time, would have pulled considerable audiences. This might actually be the year Netflix wins Best Picture, because The Power of the Dog is not only very good but might have the biggest audience of any potential Best Picture nominee. We’ll never know for sure because Netflix’s “ratings” are a marketing tool, not an analytical one, but I bet more people watched Dog on Netflix than, say, Belfast in theaters. That’s just the way the business is now, and it’s not going to change when the pandemic is over (“over”).
So brace yourself for a supremely screwy awards season. Between cancellations and make-up dates, the schedule is going to be a nightmare, and we’re in for lots of gloomy predictions about how Oscars Don’t Matter Anymore and People Hate Movies Now. Neither of those things are true, but everyone would rather have those conversations than the one we SHOULD be having which is this: Entertainment has become so niche, there is no recovering the mass audience of tens of millions of people for a movie awards show. The Oscars should stop broadcasting on linear television and start streaming. Just like the movies they’re nominating.