Following weeks of speculation, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has confirmed that the Oscars ceremony won’t have a host.
Karey Burke, the entertainment chief at ABC, the network that will carry the show, addressed this development on Tuesday during an event for the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour.
“The main goal, which I was told was what the academy promised ABC last year, after a lengthy telecast, was to keep the show to three hours,” Burke said.
“The producers wisely decided not to have a host and to go back to having the presenters and the movies be the stars. That will be the best way we keep the show at a brisk three hours.”
In August, a few months before Burke was hired, the academy announced its intentions to limit the telecast to three hours. That change seemed to be a reaction to a continuing decline in viewership, as last year’s nearly four-hour telecast dropped 19% in viewers from the previous year’s and hit an all-time low of only 26.5million viewers.
This year’s ceremony seems to have been shaped by public fury more than any other in recent history. Soon after comedian Kevin Hart was named host in December, several of his old homophobic tweets and jokes resurfaced, sparking outrage. He apologised and eventually backed out.
An undesirable job became even more so.
“There was a messiness behind the Kevin Hart situation,” Burke said. “After that it was pretty clear that we were going to stay the course. There was an idea that we were going to just have presenters host the Oscars, and we all got on-board with that idea pretty quickly.”
The academy fiddled more with the ceremony’s structure in an effort to keep the three-hour promise. Rumours spread that best cinematography would be one of multiple technical categories to be awarded during commercial breaks, deepening fears that had been around since August.
Variety reported last month that only two of the five Oscar-nominated songs – probably Kendrick Lamar and SZA’s All the Stars from Black Panther, plus Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper’s Shallow from A Star Is Born – would be performed live, and the other three would be acknowledged when the nominees were named.
This time, the outrage even reached Mary Poppins Returns star Lin-Manuel Miranda, known for his sunny disposition on Twitter. He quote-tweeted Variety’s report and wrote: “If true, and Poppins’ song won’t be performed, truly disappointing. Hostless AND music-less? To quote Kendrick: Damn.”
New York Times Carpetbagger columnist Kyle Buchanan took note of this rare negativity in a piece titled “Are the Oscars Ashamed to Be the Oscars?”
On Tuesday, the Atlantic published an article accusing the academy of being “prepared to sell its soul” for stronger ratings.
The academy reversed course and tweeted last week that all five nominated songs would be performed during the telecast – reports otherwise were “premature and only reflective of a proposal”, insiders told Deadline. But the trade outlet added that either Lady Gaga or her representatives made it clear that they wanted all five songs to be performed out of fairness to other nominees, and “that she wouldn’t perform if a chance wasn’t made”.
Each performance will reportedly last less than 90seconds so the telecast doesn’t surpass three hours.