Shortened Awards Season Wreaks Havoc in Hollywood: "Like Being Hit by a Mack Truck"

With the Oscars Feb.  9 (its earliest date ever), and all the other events squeezed in the weeks ahead of it, there's barely time to get tuxedos and gowns dry-cleaned between ceremonies.
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History is here — and a lot of Hollywood insiders aren’t happy.

Now that the calendar has officially flipped to 2020, the 92nd Academy Awards — scheduled for Feb. 9 at the Dolby Theatre — are immediately on the horizon in what will go down as the earliest Oscar ceremony ever.

While that may come as a relief to stars and filmmakers ready to ditch the glad-handing and get back to work, the same can’t be said for awards strategists and insiders, who tell The Hollywood Reporter that any look at the calendar only delivers a crushing reminder of all that needs to get done in the most condensed campaign season on record.

“Normally you see the train coming as it pulls into the station, but this year, it’s like you’ve been hit by a Mack truck,” explains one veteran strategist. “The pace is always quick but people are much more anxious this year.”

The major source of that anxiety is not the actual Oscars telecast but how the move up has had a domino effect on every other date on the awards season calendar. Organizers behind major ceremonies like the Golden Globes, SAG Awards and BAFTA Awards to critics group events and even film festivals like Palm Springs and Santa Barbara all leap-frogged in reverse to stay ahead of the Oscars, leaving those on the circuit with little to no time to catch their breath in between.

The Globes take place Jan. 5 followed by the Critics’ Choice Awards on Jan. 12; American Cinema Editors’ Eddie Awards on Jan. 17; PGA Awards on Jan. 18; SAG Awards on Jan. 19; Annie Awards, American Society of Cinematographers Awards, Cinema Audio Society Awards and DGA Awards are all scheduled for Jan. 25; Costume Designers Guild Awards on Jan. 28; Visual Effects Society Awards on Jan. 29; Art Directors Guild Awards and WGA Awards on Feb. 1; BAFTA Awards on Feb. 2; Spirit Awards on Feb. 8; and Oscars on Feb. 9.

With this year’s change, one insider confirms that the Academy is making sure its members are aware of the condensed calendar by sending out reminder emails and text alerts — something new this year — to make sure the ranks sit down and watch this year’s crop of films. “It’s like PSAs: Don’t forget to watch your movies! Don’t wait until the last minute,” says the source, who adds that promotion is also being given to the Academy’s app. “It’s like a get-out-the-vote campaign.”

An Academy spokesperson confirms that the organization, which has been communicating reminders to members for years, added messaging about the shorter season. "We want members to be ready," the rep says of nominations voting that opens on Jan. 2. 

Not everyone is feeling bruised by the new year. "It's kind of nice that it'll be shortened,” says Shannon McIntosh, a producer on Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. “It feels like in the last two years it's gotten longer and longer, so I actually think it'll make it a little more exciting and a super wonderful, quick thrilling journey."

Emma Tillinger Koskoff, who has two major contenders in this year’s race in Joker and The Irishman, says she’s feeling the accelerated pinch but she’s got an idea to help soften the burn. “I think I have to get 16 dresses in the next six weeks. It's crazy. I feel like I should just get a room at the Beverly Hilton; I'm going to be there every weekend."

A version of this story first appeared in the Jan. 8 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.