The pandemic certainly played a role for several reasons. For over a year, movie theaters have been shuttered or limited significantly to in-house patrons. The film industry pivoted and began streaming new movies directly to people’s homes. While it was a great way to see noteworthy films during a time of isolation, at about $20 a download, it could lead to a pricey night in. Yes, going to the theaters for a family of four, after popcorn is more expensive, but the experience of a full screen, high volume movie theater is, as Mastercard puts it, priceless. This led to lower overall box office numbers and for the films that were nominated for Oscars, if people aren’t watching the movies, do they really care who wins? Additionally, due to travel restrictions, social distancing and smaller group numbers, the Award ceremony itself just didn’t have the same glitzy draw that it usually pulls. While you would normally see every A-list celebrity in one room, the 2021 awards were limited to 170 people being rotated in and out of the room or zoomed in like an office meeting. There were also no musical numbers, sketches or skits that normally bring some levity to what is otherwise a fairly dry show of lengthy speeches.
Another factor is a change in the film industry in general. Individual streaming services have recently been producing truly wonderful content. Some clearly Oscar worthy work, as proven by the 9 overall wins at this year’s awards. However, the sheer number of streaming services that are available for download makes it difficult for viewers to watch all films. Between Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+ and Hulu, to name only a few, it can cause fatigue for the public to keep up with the newest service. Even for the most devoted movie buffs, subscribing to yet another streaming service to watch the new buzz-worthy movie can seem excessive.Trust me, I know!
Diving deeper however, it seems that a large part of the ratings plummet is that young people are just not that interested. Within the demographic of adults ages 18-49, viewership was down by 64%. For many years The Academy Awards held the title of the second most watched live TV event after the Super Bowl, but movie stars just aren’t what the new generation is looking for. Surveys show that Gen Z’s idea of a celebrity is that of a Social Media influencer. Most stating that they would prefer to spend the afternoon with their favorite online YouTuber, Vlogger or Instagram celebrity versus a Hollywood celebrity.
This isn’t to say that gone are the days of the pomp and circumstance of a night at the Academy, but perhaps Oscar needs to freshen his look if he wants to stay relevant.