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Might the Oscars come even earlier next year? Despite complaints over the shortened awards season, the show may be pushed back yet again

STOP THE MADNESS Roth wants a mid-sweeps Oscars
Image credit: 76th Academy Awards: Guido Ohlenbostel/Action Press/Zuma Press
STOP THE MADNESS Roth wants a mid-sweeps Oscars

This year's shift of the Academy Awards ceremony from the end of March to the end of February threw all of Hollywood into turmoil, but now, Oscar show producer Joe Roth says he'd like to advance the show even further. MSNBC.com reports that Roth wants to move the ceremony forward another two weeks into mid-February. ''Joe has been talking to everyone telling them that’s what he wants,'' says Academy spokesman John Pavlik. The reason? ''That would put it in the middle of sweeps, so it would be a huge financial boon to ABC, which could charge even more for ads,'' an industry source tells MSNBC. ''But it would make the Oscars more boring than ever.''

Oscar critics have complained that this year's shorter season led to a dull, suspense-free awards show, leaving little time for campaigning underdogs to build momentum, as ''The Pianist'' and ''Monster's Ball'' did in recent years. A longer season this year might have allowed the growing buzz to tip the scales for ''House of Sand and Fog'''s Shohreh Aghdashloo or ''Pirates of the Caribbean'''s Johnny Depp, whose Screen Actors Guild win for Best Actor came less than 48 hours before Oscar ballots were due. ''In the future, there won’t even be time for that new buzz to build,'' a source who opposes the move tells MSNBC. (On the other hand, the dark horse candidate ''Monster'' didn't need extra time to earn Charlize Theron the Best Actress nomination denied ''Cold Mountain'''s Nicole Kidman.)

This year's shift also had a wide-ranging effect on Hollywood's bottom line. The shortened frame between nominations and awards meant less time for nominees to capitalize at the box office. Studios also had less time to spend big bucks on Oscar campaigns -- and less time to allow those campaigns to turn negative, which was one of the Academy's stated reasons behind this year's move. Many other awards shows, including non-movie galas like the Grammys and the American Music Awards, also had to shift their dates to get out of Oscar's way. And movie release dates have been affected, too. Miramax co-chief Harvey Weinstein, who has blamed ''Cold Mountain'''s tepid Academy response on the movie's year-end opening, has said he won't make that mistake this year with Martin Scorsese's ''The Aviator,'' which he plans to release in November. But a mid-February Oscar show could move the nomination date up two weeks and put November movie releases back at square one.

Nonetheless, Academy officials aren't complaining about the lack of tension this year. Not only did studios by and large stick to the rules for cleaner campaigning, but the Oscar show drew an audience 30 percent larger than last year's. It's ultimately the Academy Board of Governors' call, not Roth's or ABC's or the studios', whether to move the show, and they won't decide before the end of this month. Right now, says Pavlik, ''the Academy doesn’t have an opinion. The board will meet sometime at the end of March, and then we’ll have an opinion.''

Originally posted Mar 04, 2004