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In a break with tradition, the Academy Awards in four categories will be presented during commercial breaks when the 91st Oscars are broadcast by ABC on Feb. 24.
The affected categories are cinematography, film editing, live-action short and makeup and hairstyling.
While the Academy’s board of governors approved a plan in August to present some of the 24 awards categories during breaks in order to reduce the show’s running time to three hours, it had not been known which categories would be presented under the new format, which attracted criticism complaining that it would mean a downgrade for some categories.
In an email to the group’s membership on Monday, Academy president John Bailey laid out the plan for this year’s show. He emphasized that the Academy is “still honoring the achievements of all 24 awards on the Oscars.” In the case of the four categories that will be announced during commercial breaks, the winners’ speeches will air later in the broadcast, he said.
Additionally, Bailey explained, “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 Oscar.com 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.”
Bailey, who in addition to being president sits on the board of governors as a representative of the cinematographers branch, said the executive committees of six of the Academy’s 17 branches volunteered to have their respective awards presented under the new system, and that the Academy selected four of them. In future years, he said, four to six different categories may be selected on a rotating basis, in collaboration with the show producers. The four categories that are getting the abbreviated treatment this year will be guaranteed a regular spot on the 2020 broadcast.
According to several sources, a video demonstration of what this new format will look like was shown to the various branches. It is said to have included most of the presentation, minus the winner’s walk to the stage. The goal, they were told, was also to include the spirit of each winner’s acceptance speech, although the speeches could be edited if they turn into a long list of thank-yous.
Several of those who saw the video demonstration said that it provided a respectful acknowledgment of the affected category and helped to ease their concerns.
As a rationale for the move, 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. This has been our core mission since we were established 91 years ago — and it is the same today.”
He also noted that this year’s show will include performances of all five nominated songs as well as a performance by conductor Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic during the In Memoriam segment.
Bailey concluded, “So, buckle up! We are committed to presenting a show which we all will be proud of.”
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