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Extending the Oscar Season

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The Academy Awards are just days away. It is the grandest of all award shows and marks the end of award season. It also gives a much needed break for award show contenders, who have been flying around the world, attending event after event.

During this time, the box office is typically down. Movie-goers are taking a break from the holiday season and gearing up for the summer blockbusters. It is an awkward time where studios decide to wait to release their big blockbusters and it is also too early for Oscar-worthy films. Some of the Oscar-worthy films are now just making the film festival round and won't be released to a wider audience until a later date.

After the summer blockbuster season (or around August), the box office sees another decline in revenue. It is too early to release their potential award show contenders and summer season is wrapping up. The timing or release of an Oscar contender is important which is why most in the film industry call this time period "Oscar Season." It typically starts at the end of August or the beginning of September and concludes at the end of the year. Films that want to be considered eligible must at least be shown in Los Angles County before the Dec. 31st deadline (among a list of other criteria). If a film is released too early or against other potential favorites, it could be overshadowed by the other films. Unless the studio can generate the necessary buzz around the film and keep the momentum going, their dreams of that golden statue or even a nomination, for that matter, could fall flat.

Still, what would happen if the Oscar season was extended to the entire year? Why is there a specific season or time of year that these films must be released? There would still be a final cut-off date, with the films being released after that date being considered for the following year.

This isn't always the case, like with 2010's Best Picture nominee The Social Network which was released in June. Normally films that don't get released during in the award show bubble risk being forgotten (snubbed) by those who get released during the time frame. In the case of The Social Network, it lost to The King's Speech. Both films were great, but The Social Network's momentum was halted by the buzz surrounding The King's Speech which was released closer to Oscar time (the end of November).

Award shows like the Grammys don't have such a time restraint. While they also have a cut-off which is typically the end of September, the National Recording Arts and Sciences look at all the music after the cut-off date. Case-in-point would be the Gotye (featuring Kimbra) song "Somebody I Used to Know." The song was a massive hit. It was also recorded and released at the end of 2011 and was a hit during the first part of 2012. The overall popularity of the song faded by the time Grammy nominations were announced. Regardless of the timing, it still went on to win 2 Grammy Awards at the recent show. It would be interesting if members of the Academy used the Grammys approach when it came to deciding what is considered an Oscar contender.

So could a film that is released in the next few weeks (or even out now) be a 2014 Oscar-nominated film? It is possible, but I doubt a film that gets a wide-release now would stand a chance. An independent film would because these types of films thrive on starting out small or playing at a festival and building its way up. It takes a lot more time than a film that gets a wide release right away. It depends again, if buzz can be maintained throughout the award season.

This idea of extending the Oscar Season dawned on me this time last year. Some critics were saying The Hunger Games film was Oscar-worthy. While I thought the film was fantastic, I knew it probably wouldn't come to be. The film was released in March. While it was widely successful, unless a Hollywood heavyweight or prominent member of the press did a "For your Consideration" piece, it would likely be forgotten or discarded when it came to award season. While, I am not sure if a film like The Hunger Games would even be considered for the Academy Awards, it would be interesting to see more films that fall out of the Oscar bubble get the recognition they deserve.