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So many movies, and so little time

August 08, 2003|Robert W. Welkos

Think Oscar voters have it cushy? What, you may wonder, could be so tough about watching movies for free and picking your favorites?

Consider this: How many of the nominated films have you actually seen by the time the Academy Awards show airs on TV?

With next year's abbreviated season, conscientious academy members will have four weeks to watch what they haven't already seen of something like 50 films, including a handful of shorts. That's more than a dozen titles a week -- a lot of extracurricular activity, especially considering that most academy members have job and family responsibilities just like the rest of us.

Next year's Oscar nominations will be announced Jan. 27, with final ballots due back at the academy no later than Feb. 24 -- five days before the winners are revealed during the Oscars ceremony at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood.

Depending on how many movies are nominated, it could get a little dicey for Oscar voters to see the movies they need to see. This past Oscar season, in which 52 titles were nominated, the academy arranged to screen each nominated movie twice over a three-week period. Whether they'll be able to do the same next year remains to be seen.

Like many Oscar voters, Bruce Feldman said he looks forward each year to seeing the nominated films on the big screen -- not on TV with DVDs or videocassettes.

But as he looks toward next year, Feldman wonders whether he will have time to see all the films he needs to see before casting his ballot.

"Frankly, I'm a little concerned and frustrated over how I'm going to [see all the films], given that I work and have family obligations and the same constraints everybody else is going to have," said Feldman, who works as a consultant to various studios on their Oscar campaigns.

Speaking strictly as an Oscar voter, he adds, "I actually do think this is going to make it harder for the films to get real serious attention and exposure from the academy members they should be getting."

The academy, with roughly 6,000 voting members, screens many of the films at the 1,012-seat Goldwyn Theater at its Beverly Hills headquarters. But before year's end, the organization also hopes to open a 299-seat theater at its new Pickford Center, at Fountain Avenue and Vine Street in Hollywood. The theater is part of a 110,000-square-foot complex that is home to the academy's film archives.

Tom Ortenberg, president of Lions Gate Films Releasing, said distributors will just have to get their movies out to voters sooner than usual so they can see them.

"I think all awards season voters still take the time they need to see the films important to them," he said.

-- Robert W. Welkos

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