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As the Virtual Awards Season Kicks-Off, Pre-Oscar Silence Worries Filmmakers

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As the Virtual Awards Season Kicks-Off, Pre-Oscar Silence Worries Filmmakers

By Movieguide® Staff

The pandemic, which crippled box office revenue, coupled with the announcement that this year’s Academy Awards show events will be held virtually, has resulted in a lack of Hollywood’s pre-Oscars excitement.

“It’s an abrupt change that’s catching everybody by surprise,” producer Cheryl Boone Isaacs said.

The COVID-19 restriction means that the usual chatter around the awards season is not accompanied by the typical parties, luncheons, private screenings, and high-profile premieres that normally build the hype for fans, Academy voters and filmmakers.

“There’s not that excitement, where you go to a screening and you are sitting there and everybody’s got a buzz going on,” said one industry source, according to TheWrap. “There’s no buzz, period.”

Director Susanne Bier, one of the co-chairs of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ International Feature Film Award Executive Committee, said that virtual panels are not the same as in-person events.

“The conversation stops much sooner than it would in the lobby with a glass of wine after a movie,” Bier said.

One concern that no “Oscar-buzz” brings is that many filmmakers will not receive the same amount of publicity as they did previously.

“People are always saying to me, I don’t understand why they spend $250,000 on a premiere on Hollywood Boulevard. Well, it’s because you get $500,000 worth of free publicity,” one Oscar consultant said, according to TheWrap. “That’s not happening now.”

The source continued: “No one watches them all, so we rely to some degree on media, and to some degree on movie stars, the filmmaker, the subject and the ratings, but the thing we probably rely on most that goes unstated is the word of mouth from our friends, people we trust. At (live events), you see people that you have known for decades.”

Filmmaker, director and actor Denzel Whitaker said that chatter about a movie is critical for its success.

“The awards season is filled with campaigning just as much as a presidential election,” Whitaker said. “Don’t get me wrong — Zoom has done a wonderful job, and these online conferences are cool. But you don’t have that human interaction. You can’t share the same spirit.”

Isaacs believes there is still time for excitement for the awards show to grow between now and April 25.

“We love this part of our industry; it’s a time to celebrate fabulous storytelling and filmmakers,” Isaacs told TheWrap. “It’s still there, but it’s an abrupt change that’s catching everybody by surprise. The conversations start when you run into people all the time at screenings, when you are out and about. That has to be done in a different way.”

Isaacs also mentioned that she is more willing to source journalists’ “top movies” lists—along with other creative means—to help decide what movies to sample for the Oscars ceremony.