The Oscars’ Ratings Were Terrible Because They Were in April

Learn a lesson from sports

Will Leitch
GEN
Published in
4 min readApr 26, 2021

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Photo via The Academy

For about 90 seconds, I thought the 2021 Academy Awards were going to be awesome. Regina King, who had a film she directed, One Night in Miami, up for three Oscars the year after she won one for If Beale Street Could Talk, strode into the Oscars like she owned the place. Producer Steven Soderbergh gave her an Ocean’s 11 intro to establish his goal of making the ceremony feel more intimate and personal, and you half expected Vegas fountains to rise gush behind her in celebration. I’d never seen anything like it at the Oscars before. It was exciting. It was new.

Nothing else at the Academy Awards could quite approach that, and all told, the general consensus is that the night was a bit of a dud. The television ratings came out Monday, and they were even more horrific that many had feared, falling more than 64 percent from 2020, which had been the previous low. There are various culprits listed as reasons for the ratings slump, all of them reasonable:

  • No big movies were released and thus overall interest was low.
  • Without the pomp and bluster of the usual Oscars ceremony, the whole thing just felt empty and hallow — even ridiculous.
  • Movie theaters were closed this year, don’t you know?
  • We’re still in a pandemic, and maybe we’re just not in the mood for Brad Pitt right now.

All of these suspects will be sussed out in the coming days as the producers come in for their ritualistic bloodletting. There will be more thinkpieces about What’s wrong with Hollywood? and Are movies over? than any reasonable person could possibly tolerate. But I think there might be a simpler explanation for all this, one that maybe lets Hollywood off the hook a little bit: The Oscars just aren’t supposed to be in April.

The Academy Awards were later than ever this year, in part because they added an extra two months eligibility, which is why films like Judas and the Black Messiah and The United States Versus Billie Holliday were eligible despite being released in 2021. That decision pushed the Oscars back to the unprecedented date of April 25, the latest they’ve been since 1929, the very first ceremony. The Oscars haven’t been in…

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Will Leitch
GEN
Writer for

Author of six books, including “How Lucky” and "The Time Has Come." NYMag/MLB.. Founder, Deadspin. https://williamfleitch.substack.com