Oscars campaigning: How do studios lobby for Academy Awards?

BySandy Kenyon KGO logo
Thursday, February 6, 2020
Oscars campaigning: How do studios lobby for Academy Awards?
Sandy Kenyon has more on how studios lobby for an Academy Award.

NEW YORK -- The morning after the Academy Awards, folks often ask me, did the best actor win? Did the best movie win? The answer is sometimes, as the Motion Picture Academy tries to make its famous awards show fair even though it's become a very political process.

The Oscar has always been the most prestigious award in all of show business, but now it's also the most valuable.

"It's become, in effect, a way to market movies," film and TV producer Joe Pichirallo said. "It bring legitimacy to the films and credibility."

Pichirallo is the former chair of the undergraduate film and television program at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, and he's an expert at the many ways that studios try to lobby for their movies.

"Oscar campaigns have become like political campaigns, and the studios hire Oscar consultants just like political campaigns hire political consultants," he said.

One of the tools of the trade are the Hollywood trade papers, filled with ads asking you to "consider" various films.

This advertising is squarely aimed at Oscar voters, as there are fewer than 8,500 members of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences eligible to vote -- but earlier awards shows act much like political primaries to narrow the field of contenders.

"Oscar campaigns can't directly ask you to vote, and the Academy has tried to put in some rules," Pichirallo said. "So one of the ways around that is they invite you to question and answer sessions, a chance to hob knob with the filmmakers and stars. There'll be a screening, question and answer, and reception following it."

Netflix has two ways to win for Best Picture with "Marriage Story" and "The Irishman," and the streaming company has been especially aggressive this year.

Pichirallo notes that Oscars are supposed to go to the most deserving films and performances, but that might not always be the case.

"Unfortunately, it's not just the strength of the movie," he said. "There's also the effort to position a movie, and how do you position it, and how do you get people to jump on the bandwagon."

The Netflix Oscar campaign cost as much as $100 million, according to "The Wall Street Journal." The streaming service insists that number is too high, though a spokesperson went on to say the company's spending was, "very smart."

How smart? For the answer to that one, tune in to the Oscars on Sunday night.

Don't miss the Oscars live on Sunday, Feb. 9, on ABC. Coverage begins at 4:30 ET | 3:30 CT | 1:30 PT on this ABC station.