LOS ANGELES: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences is moving the Oscars from March to February in an effort to boost ratings and weed out the crowded awards-show field, but the jump has Hollywood marketers concerned about the expensive campaign strategies that back their films.
"The window for distributors to expose their pictures is going to shrink dramatically, said Paul Pflug, Artisan Entertainment SVP of national publicity. "Trying to break out of the clutter will be a challenge. Our level of creativity will have to be taken up a notch."
Beginning in 2004, the Oscars will air in late February for a two-year trial period. The Academy hopes the change will condense an awards season that airs at least a half-dozen shows, including the Golden Globes, AFI Awards, and the SAG Awards. In the past few years, the number of shows preceding the Oscars has eroded ratings as audiences tire of seeing the same stars parading across the stage.
While the shorter award season may benefit the Oscars, Hollywood marketers fear it will make it more difficult to hype their potential contenders.
Traditionally, many Oscar hopefuls hit theaters right after Thanksgiving, and wage behind-the-scenes efforts to gain industry favor. The new date means studios must consider releasing films earlier - into a fall movie season friendlier to family fare - or risk having less time to sell their products' merits.
Many agree that the films most impacted by the change are independent movies without heavy financial backing. These films, such as last year's Monster's Ball, often open in December to qualify for the Oscars, then rely on the nomination to boost ticket sales and increase attention. The shorter season will mean less time between nomination and awards to lure audiences and influence Academy voters.