Is the Academy listening?

By Rupert Burnham | March 7, 2019

So the 91st Academy Awards have been and gone for yet another year, and for the most part, they went without a hitch (remember the La La Land / Moonlight mix up in 2017?). Now, love them or hate them, generally, the Academy tends to make decent decisions, though how Pulp Fiction didn’t win a golden statue for Best Picture in 1995 is anyone’s guess.


The Academy doesn’t always choose the best in a given category, and sometimes you’re left wondering whether they’ve actually seen all of the nominees. Either way, there’s generally some controversy. Sometimes there’s a lack of a host for the awards, and people disagree with the winners or feel that certain groups are underrepresented — and this year was no exception.


Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma was nominated for 10 Oscars, and though it didn’t win the Best Picture prize that it was widely tipped to win, there was justice in seeing Cuarón take home Best Director along with Best Cinematography and Best Foreign Language Oscar for his magnificent masterwork. But, that didn’t mean everyone was happy about it. Their bugbear? It was a Netflix production, and despite a theatrical release, albeit a limited three week one, they felt that it shouldn't have been included. Who are they you may well be asking yourself? Well, Steven Spielberg and Vue Cinemas for two. The director believes that only movies that premiere and are distributed in cinemas should be eligible, while Vue seems more concerned about a lack of traditional windowing opportunities and the corresponding lack in their ability to make a profit on a release such as this. This view, however, is ridiculous. Viewing habits have changed and the Oscars are intended to be a celebration of those that excel in the art of filmmaking.


So, are the Academy Awards still relevant? This year was notable for a slew of diversity and historic wins such as Mahershala Ali claiming his second Oscar win in the Best Supporting Actor category, his first being for Moonlight in 2017 – when he became the first Muslim actor to win an Oscar.


More often than not though there’s a marked gulf between what’s popular with the audience and the critics and the Academy, just as Box Offices receipts rarely tell a tale of critical acclaim. This year might just have been different though. Bohemian Rhapsody was released at the end of 2018 and while it was well received by audiences it was lambasted by critics. That didn’t stop it from bagging four of the coveted golden statues, so maybe the Academy paid heed to what the public wants and thinks. However, this didn’t stop mutterings that the film is sorely overrated. Three Oscars were also awarded to Black Panther, the first awarded to any film from the Marvel Cinematic Universe.


However, there is another way that the Oscars have proved relevant and still have influence. A quick look at what happened on the peer-2-peer network following the Oscar results, and we see a percentage change in the number of downloads for all of the titles nominated for the three key awards in the 1st quarter. Below is a list of all of the nominees across the Golden Globes (7th Jan 2019), the BAFTA’s (11th Feb 2019) and the Oscars (25th Feb 2019) and the percentage change in downloads from a week prior to the ceremony weekend to the week after.



Data collected from Nahuru's proprietary software

Vice had the greatest increase in downloads (296%) from the week before the Golden Globes to the week after, however, this is likely due to the timing of its release on the network. Titles released in 2018 like Black Panther, A Star is Born and Bohemian Rhapsody either had a negative effect or minimal gains. However, the Oscars had the most influence on digital consumption particularly for the winner Green Book (111%).

So it appears that the Oscars definitely do still have relevance. Certainly, for this year, they have shown they have the ability to listen as evidenced by Roma receiving multiple nominations. There is still a way to go in terms of inclusivity though. At the very least they are still able to exert influence as an indicator of what films should next be watched.

Tags: baftas bohemian rhapsody golden globes green book netflix oscars roma vue