Oscar Winners Are Now Smaller, More Honest Movies

The world of the Oscars has been under attack. In the last several years, the Academy Awards show has faced weakening ratings, stronger competing award shows, a declining theatrical U.S. box office business, and more independent movies, which--few could argue--are increasingly better than big-marketed Hollywood fare.

This year "The 78th Academy Awards" should be given an honorary award for bravery in a time of media wars--increasingly handing out more awards to small-time or independent movies. But this isn't new--this is a trend that has been well underway for almost two decades. All of which makes sense in this more personalized, smaller, iPod-like media world.

And it's not as if the big studios didn't see this coming. All have independent or boutique film labels, which also cater to those big- time actors--like Tom Hanks, George Clooney, or Julia Roberts--who want to make a smaller, more personal film from time to time.

But this year there is yet another twist. It wasn't just a small picture from a big studio that won. Harvey and Bob Weinstein's Miramax Films, a division of Walt Disney Co., had a virtual lock on that category, winning three times with "The English Patient," "Shakespeare in Love," and "Chicago."



This time it was a small picture from a small studio.

Last night, it was Lions Gate Entertainment's "Crash," not the well-headlined "Brokeback Mountain, " (from Focus Features, a unit of NBC Universal) that won the big award for best picture. All this means that small distribution or independent films aren't the asterisks anymore. Big-marketed movies could be, says The New York Times.

The consequence? The Oscar show has lost some of its ratings punch. But what TV show hasn't? It is still a glamorous event, which is why TV advertisers still want it, as there are fewer highly rated TV shows around.

It's no surprised that even with the expectation of independent movies bringing home the most trophies, ABC easily sold out "The 78th Academy Awards Show" at a higher price than a year ago.

What does this say? TV advertisers are either being led off a cliff--or, in an age of diminishing returns, will use what still works.

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