Magazine article Variety

Speed Dating Season

Magazine article Variety

Speed Dating Season

Article excerpt

Do accelerated skeds impact kudos?

The accelerated awards season has affected a lot of things. It's made everyone's schedules more hectic. Acad honchos hope it will alter TV ratings. But the most profound effect is on the outcome.

With secret ballots, it's impossible to get iron-clad proof, but there is plenty of evidence that the date change has influenced the results of the best picture race. There are three areas to back up that theory: Oscar bellwethers, the time crunch and the elusive but all-important awards-season rhythm.

BELLWETHERS: For many years, pundits have studied various omens to predict the eventual Academy Award winner. Those include the Golden Globe winners, the SAG ensemble cast award, and the Oscar nominations themselves. In the 25-year period between 1971 and 1994, for example, the film that earned the most noms wound up in the winner's circle 84% of the time.

However, there have been shifts.

The Oscar ceremony moved about a month earlier starting with the Feb. 29, 2004, ABC telecast, which honored the films of 2003. ("The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" was the big winner that night.) When the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences announced that date change, all the other awards events also went earlier; Oscar is the alpha male, and others followed his lead.

The chart accompanying this story shows the contrasting results of the date change on those three bellwethers, starting with the films of 1995, the first year SAG presented its ensemble award. From 1995 through 2002, when the Oscarcast had a late-March date, the Globes and Oscar nominations closely paralleled the eventual winner. But with the earlier awards date, their accuracy became more erratic - while the SAG ensemble award became more reliable.

And the explanation for this is . . . who knows? Perhaps it's a coincidence. Perhaps something has changed in voting patterns on the SAG side, from the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. or the Academy voters - or a combo of the three.

But the bottom line is that something changed.

TIME CRUNCH: This year, Oscar ballots went out Dec. 17, the earliest ever. And a slew of serious awards contenders were still set to open after that date, including "Amour," "This Is 40," "The Impossible," "Not Fade Away," "On the Road," "Zero Dark Thirty," "Django Unchained," "Les Miserables" and "Promised Land." But Oscar ballots are due Jan. …

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