LOS ANGELES (AFP) - The Oscars next month will pre-tape the announcements of eight winners in an attempt to make the televised ceremony "tighter and more electric," organisers said on Tuesday (Feb 22).
The decision, made to "prioritise the television audience", will free up more time for musical performances, comedy and tributes, Academy president David Rubin said in an email to nominees and members.
Television ratings for the Oscars have dramatically declined in recent years. Last year's edition was watched by just over 10 million viewers - a 56 per cent decline from 2020, which was already a record low.
Eight awards "will initially be presented in the Dolby Theatre in the hour before the live broadcast begins", and edited highlights will be "folded seamlessly into the live televised show", the email seen by AFP says.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has mulled reducing the number of categories in the live broadcast before, and recently merged its "sound mixing" and "sound editing" awards into a single Oscar.
But previous attempts were unpopular, particularly among members working in craft categories - from film editing to makeup and hairstyling - who fear missing out on what is often a career-highlight moment.
Those categories will now be pre-taped, along with awards for original score, sound, production design, documentary shorts, animated shorts and live-action shorts.
Mr Rubin's email emphasises that "every awarded filmmaker and artiste in every category will still have the celebratory 'Oscar moment' they deserve on the stage of the Dolby, facing an enrapt audience".
The streamlining measure will leave "more time and opportunity for audience entertainment and engagement through comedy, musical numbers, film clip packages and movie tributes," he said.
"For the audience at home, the show's flow does not change, though it will become tighter and more electric with this new cadence."
One Academy member, who asked not to be named, told AFP that they "understand" the decision announced by Rubin, due to the proviso that all winners' speeches will still be featured on the broadcast.
"Considering the recent ratings decline of the Oscars telecast, the show must evolve with having the best interest of the future of the show, as well as the Academy itself, in mind," said the member.
It is the Academy's latest move to boost interest and viewership in its flagship event.
The 94th Academy Awards telecast will also include a new "fan favourite" prize for the year's most popular film, as voted for by Twitter users.
Several of last year's crowd-pleasing blockbusters, including Spider-Man: No Way Home and James Bond film No Time To Die, had failed to earn Oscar nominations in major categories, including best picture.
After going three years without a host, the Oscars on March 27 will be helmed by three doyennes of comedy, Amy Schumer, Regina Hall and Wanda Sykes.