Brow Beat

The Academy Will Present Four Oscars During Commercials This Year

A giant Oscar statue.
Bring in the seat-fillers! Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

This year’s Academy Awards for cinematography, film editing, live-action short, and makeup and hairstyling will be presented during commercial breaks, Academy president John Bailey wrote in a letter to the membership on Monday, Variety reports. Although the awards presentations will not be aired live on the Oscar telecast, they will be available in a live stream on The winner’s walk to the stage will be cut from the award presentation, and then their acceptance speeches will air as part of the telecast later in the night.


In other words, the plan for these less-important awards is to have a cinematographer on hand to shoot raw footage, which will then be handed off to an editor to cut into a live action short for broadcast, so we can all gawk at the winners’ makeup and hairstyling.


The move is not a complete surprise: the Academy’s Board of Governors announced in August that they were revamping the ceremony completely to keep it under three hours, and that delayed broadcast of some awards categories was a probability. Of course, they also announced in August that there would be a new “Popular Film” category, then backed off the idea, but they’re planning to go ahead with this one. The surprise is the categories themselves: cinematography and film editing are pretty high-profile to cut from the main ceremony. My colleague Sam Adams suggests this might have been done as a gesture to the other branches: Bailey himself is a cinematographer whose films include Groundhog Day and American Gigolo; his wife, Carol Littleton, is a film editor who received an Academy Award nomination for E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. But as Bailey explained:


Viewing patterns for the Academy Awards are changing quickly in our current multi-media world, and our show must also evolve to successfully continue promoting motion pictures to a worldwide audience.

Our current multi-media world strikes again! Bailey wrote that the executive committees of six of the Academy’s seventeen branches volunteered to have their awards presented this way, and four awards were then selected. In 2020, those awards will have Survivor-style immunity, but the producers and the Academy will select between four and six other award categories to present during commercial breaks. (With the notable exception of Best Picture, most Academy Award nominations are chosen by the branches, then the awards themselves are determined by voting members of the full Academy.) This time around, each of the awards that got yanked was from its own Academy branch, but it’s unclear if that will be true in the future. The Short Films and Feature Animation branch, for example, handles the nominations for three Academy Awards: Short Film (Animated), Short Film (Live-Action), and Animated Feature Film; the Film Editors Branch has only one, and thus is guaranteed a live award presentation at least every other year. In short, it sounds like this is going to make for some really fun meetings as the Academy attempts to balance its needs against the needs of the TV network broadcasting the ceremony, while simultaneously balancing the needs of the various branches against each other.


On the other hand, there’ll be a lot more time for montages.

Here is the complete text of Bailey’s letter:

Dear Fellow Academy Members,

After months of anticipation and much talk, I’d like to address a topic that’s close to me.

Viewing patterns for the Academy Awards are changing quickly in our current multi-media world, and our show must also evolve to successfully continue promoting motion pictures to a worldwide audience. This has been our core mission since we were established 91 years ago—and it is the same today.

As you may remember, last summer the Academy’s Board of Governors committed to airing a three-hour show. I want to reiterate however, that all 24 Academy Award-winning presentations will be included in the broadcast. We believe we have come up with a great way to do this, and keep the show to three hours.

While still honoring the achievements of all 24 awards on the Oscars, four categories—Cinematography, Film Editing, Live Action Short, and Makeup and Hairstyling – will be presented during commercial breaks, with their winning speeches aired later in the broadcast.

And, with the help of our partners at ABC, we also will stream these four award presentations online for our global fans to enjoy, live, along with our audience. Fans will be able to watch on and on the Academy’s social channels. The live stream is a first for our show, and will help further awareness and promotion of these award categories.

The executive committees of six branches generously opted-in to have their awards presented in this slightly edited timeframe for this year’s show, and we selected four. In future years, four to six different categories may be selected for rotation, in collaboration with the show producers. (This year’s categories will be exempted in 2020.)

The Academy Awards honors the year’s best films and filmmakers. It is an international show, filled with great emotion, and (we hope) stirring acceptance speeches. This year, in addition to performances of all five nominated songs, the show will feature Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic playing during In Memoriam, as part of their own centennial celebration.

So, buckle up! We are committed to presenting a show which we all will be proud of.