Film Academy's Oscars Post-Mortem Leaves Door Open for Return to Hosted Telecast (Exclusive)

An Oscar Statue is displayed at the 92nd Annual Academy Awards Governors Ball press preview at The Ray Dolby Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland Center, in Hollywood, California, on January 31, 2020 - Getty - H 2020
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After two years of hostless Oscars ceremonies, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is considering bringing back an emcee for future editions.

The Academy's board of governors convened on Tuesday night for its annual March meeting, at which the prior month's Oscars telecast is dissected. Sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that some of the 54 governors participated in-person at the organization's Beverly Hills headquarters, but many participated by phone, perhaps as a result of the coronavirus scare.

The 92nd Oscars telecast, which ABC aired on Feb. 9, was generally applauded by the governors, who had an opportunity to hear from and pose questions to its producers, Stephanie Allain and Lynette Howell Taylor.

Allain and Howell Taylor noted that the telecast featured more musical performances than any prior edition — including not only performances by song nominees, but also an opening number featuring Janelle Monae and a surprise performance by Eminem (which many governors enjoyed, even if some found them a bit random).

Still, all parties were forced to acknowledge that a 20 percent ratings decline from the prior Oscars telecast was deeply troublesome. As in past years, an independent analyst was invited into the March meeting to help make sense of the numbers, and a general conclusion was reached that the Academy, at least in some years, should consider a return to having a big-name host of the telecast to help boost ratings.

The first hostless Oscars telecast in years took place in 2019, under producer Donna Gigliotti, and year-over-year ratings went up. But that may have been more a reflection of the popularity of the films that were nominated — and curiosity about a possible train wreck of a telecast — than an endorsement of the idea of a show without a host. The 2020 telecast had fewer popular films in contention and therefore could have benefited from another way of luring TV viewers at a time when all award shows are struggling to retain eyeballs.

The next Academy board meeting, in April, will specifically be a forward-looking one at which the rules and categories for the 93rd Oscars, which will be held Feb. 28, 2021, will be set. Among the topics likely to be addressed: whether or not to merge the best sound editing and best sound mixing Oscar categories into one, something that THR has reported the Academy has been exploring for some time.