Awards shows in freefall, Hollywood troubles in China

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Writer-director Chloé Zhao and Frances McDormand on the set of “Nomadland.” Zhao is a frontrunner at this year’s Oscars, but the Chinese government is not a fan of Zhao’s past statements about her home country and may look to block her movies from being shown there. Photo Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is worried about the Oscars telecast, and they have every right to be. Both major televised awards shows this year — the Golden Globes and the Grammys — have been ratings disasters.

The Golden Globes were a technical disaster and had only 6.9 million viewers, a 63% drop from last year. On the other hand, last weekend’s Grammys ran smoothly and the show was well-reviewed by critics, but viewership still fell by 51%, to just over 9 million viewers. 

While the Academy did make history with some of its Oscar nominations this year, it’s unclear how many people will turn up to watch the show, especially since a lot of people may not have seen most of the nominated films.  

What’s causing these steep viewership declines in awards shows? Ratings have been on a downward trend for years, but the dropoff has gotten especially steep during the pandemic, perhaps because people have recalibrated their viewing habits and may now go to a streaming service  before checking what’s on live TV. 

And even if a show can manage live performances like the Grammys did, many of these live events also don’t have the same amount of pizzazz without a live audience or crowd. Sports ratings have also taken a hit, likely for the same reason. 

And while the Oscars will likely struggle with ratings on the homefront, the awards show may not air all in China. The country is angry about the nomination of the short documentary “Do Not Split,” which follows the 2019 protests in Hong Kong. 

The Chinese government is also upset at Oscar frontrunner Chloé Zhao for an old interview where she made statements perceived to be critical of her home country. (An Australian publication initially reported that Zhao said America is “now my country.” That was subsequently corrected to “not my country.”)

Zhao's film “Nomadland” has still not played in China. It would be an even bigger blow to Hollywood if Chinese censors block her next project, a big Marvel movie called “The Eternals.”

Hollywood has come to depend on money from American blockbusters playing in China, but in recent years, China has put more of an emphasis on promoting and playing films from its own country. 

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Guest:

Host:

Kim Masters

Producer:

Kaitlin Parker