Oscar organisers scrap plan to award four Oscars in commercial breaks

Oscar statues dry in the sunlight after receiving a fresh coat of gold paint as preparations begin for the 89th Academy Awards. (Reuters pic)

LOS ANGELES: The organisers of the Oscars ceremony on Friday scrapped a plan to award four Academy Awards during commercial breaks in the Feb 24 telecast, following an uproar by Hollywood filmmakers, actors and others.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said in a statement that it had “heard the feedback” from members and that all 24 Academy Awards “will be presented without edits, in our traditional format.”

Earlier this week, the academy announced that the Oscars for best cinematography, film editing, short films and makeup/hairstyling would be presented during the commercials in the telecast. The organisation said edited versions of the winner acceptance speeches would be aired later in the live broadcast.

The plan was part of an effort to make the Oscar telecast shorter and boost television viewership after the audience for the 2018 ceremony on ABC fell to an all-time low.

But an open letter, signed by directors Martin Scorsese and Spike Lee, actors Robert de Niro, Meryl Streep and George Clooney, and more than 300 other Hollywood heavyweights accused the academy of “relegating these essential crafts to lesser status” and insulting the professionals who work in the four areas.

The reversal followed a meeting on Thursday between the cinematographers union and top academy officials.

Hollywood trade publication Variety cited an unidentified source as saying that the decision meant that the Feb 24 telecast will now run over three hours as a result.

The changes, aimed at cutting about 30 minutes from the ceremony, were first proposed last summer.

Friday’s decision follows a series of retreats by the academy, including a plan last year to introduce a new “popular” film category that was also scrapped after an outcry in Hollywood.