Every year, millions of people will watch the Academy Awards to see who takes home the coveted Oscars, the top prize in the film industry. The Academy consists of a series of voters that watch the films that are in consideration for each prize, and casts their votes for the winners. During the later part of the year after blockbusters have left theaters, you typically see a rise in the films that do well with critics rather than broad audiences.
This is what’s known as Oscar season, and the nominations come in the early parts of the new year. The films are released during this season because it will likely be fresh on the mind of the Oscar voters. On top of that, there’s a lot of campaigning that goes into a movie winning an Oscar. It makes a lot of sense, as the films that end up winning Oscars see a rise in revenue created.
The head of a movie studio is the one that gets placed in charge of campaigning a movie for a potential Oscar. Many of the voters are invited to glamorous parties by studio heads, and hope to sway the opinion. There are even some that get themselves involved in more shady tactics that include spreading rumors about certain stars and directors that may or may not be true.
Campaigning a film for an Oscar isn’t cheap, either. Studios spend millions of dollars to run advertising and private campaigns, with some spending around $10-15 million each Oscar season. There’s a lot of strategy that goes into Oscar campaigns, with some films being pushed back or rushed ahead as much as a year to fit what the social narrative is at the time. People tend to gravitate toward movies that deal with current events, and the Academy is no exception.
Many have compared Oscar campaigning to that of running for office. There are thousands of members of the Academy, so meeting with just a couple of them isn’t going to do you much. You have to have a broad appeal and meet with constituents so they’re more likely to have your name on their mind, as well as more likely to watch your film. Some voters are said to not even watch a film if other voters don’t think it has a chance of winning.
One voter, Stu Zakim, has even admitted as much. “When that first screening of ‘La La Land’ came, there was so much buzz, I was there early to get a good seat,” he said. “If it’s a winner coming out of Sundance (film festival), of course I’m going to pay attention to that. But I’m not going to kill myself to see something (in theaters), if I know I’m going to a screener.”
It’s a cutthroat season in Hollywood when the Oscar nominations are around the corner, and it’s meeting face to face with voters that does the trick, mostly. “The personal campaign is so much more important to me than the ads or any media interview talent might give,” Zakim said.