With the Oscars only days away, it's hard not to look back on this unusual, and very long, award show season and wonder what the future holds. When the Golden Globes kicked off the season on Feb.28, about six weeks later than they are normally scheduled, the entire show felt off. Hosts Tina Fey, in New York, and Amy Poehler, in Los Angeles, did their best to keep the limited in-person audience entertained while reminding everyone watching at home that nothing was normal.
Amazingly, producers and networks have even been able to cobble together award show after award show despite the unprecedented obstacles of the last year. Smaller movies found a way to have a life on the streaming networks and those performances deserve to be honored. It's also important to note that award show season is a real season in Los Angeles: summer, fall, award show season and spring. It's a time normally filled to the brim with parties, For Your Consideration (FYC) events and invitation-only dinners. With those elite events, comes the need for hair, makeup, red carpets, gowns, flowers and chauffeur-driven vehicles.
The support industries sector of the economy has been hobbled by a year of canceled celebrations and social distancing requirements. Sequoia Productions, the Cheryl Cecchetto-led event company, has been designing the Governors Ball for both the Emmys and the Oscars for years. Instead of the usual flurry of interviews and Oscar activity, their Instagram account's last post talks about a G’Day USA gala they produced in February. It makes you question whether the award show season will ever look the same.
Award shows have evolved over the years, most notably, when it comes to security. The days of camping overnight for a bleacher seat at the Oscars red carpet are long gone. It's done by a lottery system and identification must be submitted for background checks ahead of the big day. Those post-9/11 moves were understandable because it's important to keep everyone safe — and next year's red carpet may again see a notable shift because of the pandemic.
Stylists have figured out innovative ways to showcase the red carpet gowns without a red carpet — there's a photo shoot at the star's home or other location before they set off to the event. We wouldn't be surprised to see this trend continue and only needing a small step and repeat a few chosen media outlets to do red carpet interviews at the show. Celebrities were already avoiding interviews before the pandemic, now there are even more reasons to avoid the throngs of media. Fashion is a big game when it comes to award show season, but if the stylists insist on the pre-show photo shoot — that's a game-changer.
And let's talk about ratings — is there even an audience for award shows anymore? After seeing the "fun" Golden Globes watch their ratings dip to a 13-year-low with a 63% dip over 2020, per CNBC, there's not a lot of hope for a big audience at Sunday's Oscars. The SAG Awards might have had the smartest idea in 2021: a one-hour, pre-taped special. No-fuss, no extraneous bits — it was a blink-and-you-missed-it award show celebration.
With not as much exposure for this year's Oscar nominees, and the show relocating to Union Station with only 170 guests to accommodate LA County's strict COVID measures, it's hard to see where the show goes next. Can the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences find a way to regain an audience or is the award show just a relic of the past? The Oscars are here to stay because it is one of Hollywood's highest honors, but it's hard to get a 2021 television audience to care.
Before you go, check out: "All of the Los Angeles Venues Used Over the Years for the Oscars"