Are the Oscars Hurting Hollywood?


Friday, February 24, 2012

While it's become an annual rite to complain about the Oscars, aside from the Super Bowl, more Americans still watch the Academy Awards than any other TV show. Contrary to what you might think, Hollywood's biggest night may be hurting the movie industry. At least according to longtime agent and producer Gavin Polone.

Polone, who writes about the entertainment industry for, tells Kurt Andersen that the Oscar-crazed studios are shelling out seven to ten million dollars per Oscar campaign. “It increases the cost-base for all of movie-making and as a result the studios refuse to take more chances,” Polone says. Studios are also expected to provide an “Oscar bump” in the salaries of nominated actors, directors, and producers with no guarantee of extra revenue afterward.

"There's a reason why you don't see an Ordinary People or a Kramer vs. Kramer anymore,” Polone says. Hollywood is “focused on sequels and comic book movies, because that's what's been proven in the past."

While studios play it safe, Polone argues that at the same time, the older, white, male-dominated Academy ignores quality crowd-pleasers, especially comedies. "To me, Letters from Iwo Jima was a snore, but Borat was a great movie that year, and a different movie."  

So what if the Oscars ceased to exist? Polone says that Hollywood could use the extra money to take more chances. "Overall, there would be more gems. And there would be better movies. And it would be much better for the business.”

What do you think? Are the Oscars bad for movies? How would you make the system better? Leave a comment below and let us know.

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Gavin Polone

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Comments [13]


All I know is that Rocky won Best Picture the same year that taxi Driver was made. (1976)I pretty much gave up there. It's never been about "Best Picture" and it likely never will be.

Feb. 27 2012 05:03 PM
Ileen Self

I stopped watching the Oscars when The Color Purple was passed over. That was what, 1980 something? It's not about movies. It's about our celebrity obsessed culture gorging themselves on a night of celebrities in designer gowns and expensive borrowed jewels.

Feb. 26 2012 07:23 PM

I have to disagree with you rmgtwo, the financial services industry is "the most narcissistic self-congratulatory industry on earth". Hollywood wants to be congratulated for producing low brow schlock, ok that's bad, meanwhile the financial services industry expects an award for bankrupting Western civilization...

Feb. 26 2012 05:24 PM
Jacob from Los Angeles

The value of an oscar:

Feb. 26 2012 05:00 PM
Lindsay from Austin

I'm not sure that Borat holds up as an example of comedies that should be nominated for Oscars.
As for the argument that better movies would be made if not for the Oscars, that statement seems in need of a qualifier. Movies that don't care about Oscar nominations are being made all the time, but they don't have the budget or Hollywood backing to get out in front of nationwide audiences.

And it's also tough to argue that studios are focusing on sequels because of the Oscars. Did anyone think that Transformers 2 and 3 (is there a fourth yet?) ever had a chance?

Feb. 26 2012 01:00 PM
Marcus from US

Interersting point but journalistically selective. Difficult to argue that the Academy doesn't pick on merit and that Indies don't get a fair shot when No Country for Old Men, Slumdog Millionaire and King's Speech have won best picture in the last four years!

Feb. 26 2012 11:37 AM
rmgtwo from NJ

All I can say is that the Entertainment Industry - be it music, television, stage, or film is the most narcissistic self-congratulatory industry on earth. You only touched for a moment on why all of this exists when you pointed out the TV audience it commands. The only reason for the Oscars is the money generated through the television broadcast itself and through enriching movie companies by getting people go to or rent films they ordinarily wouldn't.

Feb. 26 2012 11:22 AM
Ross Deforrest from East Syracuse, NY

The Oscars have always been a celebration of mediocre big-budget films. The great films rarely get Oscars.

Feb. 26 2012 11:17 AM

Somehow the Academy awards are hurting movies, and the guest cites that movies like "Kramer vs Kramer" and "Ordinary People" are not being made anymore. Uhh, both movies won Academy awards. If the Awards are hurting movies today, they would have hurt movies in the past as well. It seems somewhat silly to cite two Academy award winning movies of the past and claim that the Award process--which recognized both movies--prevents movies like them from being made. If anything, I am sure studios were trying to replicate the success by making more dramas like them.

Feb. 25 2012 04:14 PM
Sheri Utain from Phila.

The Academy Awards are the ACADEMY Awards, not the United States Awards, so they don't have to represent a "cross section of the U.S. population". Also, these are not quality awards, but more popularity awards. We shouldn't look at past award movies as "the best" of anything. As for me, I haven't watched the award ceremony since I was 10 (maybe 11). And, I haven't cared about who won since The Lord of the Rings. So, people who enjoy watching "the stars" can enjoy the show, and the rest of us can get a good night's sleep...

Feb. 25 2012 07:53 AM

Borat? Idiotic and insulting, let's see him satirize Netanyahu or AIPAC...

Feb. 24 2012 03:15 PM

This guy doesn't make a single logical argument. According to him, movies like Kramer vs Kramer don't get made anymore, ignoring the plethora of independent and studio dramas cranked out every year. But forget that, if he thinks Letters from Iwo Jima was a snorefest, what does he REALLY think of the dramas he cited? Kramer vs Kramer wasn't exactly a thrill fest. And while I'm all for comedies, awarding an Oscar based on popularity will inevitably result in a race to the bottom. Just think of all the Stallone movies of the '80s that would be awarded the golden statue based on those crazy standards.

Feb. 24 2012 11:05 AM

Studio practice of back loading awards movies to the end of the year is a bad idea, it makes for sensory overload and decreases appreciation of key movies.

Feb. 24 2012 08:08 AM

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