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The Rush is On
By John Horn
latimes.com – March 25, 2003
The surprising finish to this year’s Oscar race is barely history, but that doesn’t mean it’s too early to begin speculation about next year’s campaign. To wit: The third film in the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy will not debut in theaters for another eight months, but already its makers are racing to finish the film. Why the early rush? So voters for next year’s Academy Awards will have ample opportunity to see it.
The Oscars for films released in 2003 will be presented one month earlier than usual, on Feb. 29, 2004, and the date change already is shaking up Hollywood. Several studios are hurrying to make sure their award hopefuls are ready to be shown well before their December debuts, smaller independents are considering releasing their prestige titles as early as September, and the Golden Globes and the Independent Feature Project’s Spirit Awards may move up their dates to stay ahead of the Oscar curve.
The schedule shift by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was prompted by declining television ratings and a glut of pre-Oscar ceremonies like the Broadcast Film Critics Assn. awards that were stealing Academy Award thunder. But the abbreviated timetable may produce another, potentially more important, outcome: slightly more civilized awards campaigning.
“It’s gotten to be so vulgar and very nasty,” Samuel Goldwyn Jr., an academy member and the producer of two Oscar shows, says of the current style of awards promotions. “It’s become such a dirty business, and people are horrified.”
While a mere four weeks’ difference may seem inconsequential, the repercussions are in fact significant for the studios, filmmakers and those involved in the Academy Awards race. Every one of this year’s five best picture nominees debuted in theaters on or after Dec. 18. Nomination ballots were not due until Jan. 29, giving Oscar voters a whole month to hit the multiplex and sift through piles of complimentary DVDs and videos before marking their votes.
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