A Plea to the Academy: Nominate Spider-Man and Dual-Cast the Ceremony

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I’ve been following movie news since I was kid. Literally since elementary school, when I would read the LA Times Calendar section (the old name of the entertainment section of the paper) every morning before school, and I especially loved the movie news. There were weekly box office recaps on Mondays, then the official results came out on Tuesdays, and movie reviews each Friday. Of course, the most exciting feature each year was the big summer movie preview. 

And I followed the Oscar race. Even though I wasn’t allowed to see most of the movies, I was invested in who won after watching Siskel & Ebert debate all of the nominees.

I love the Oscars, and for years now, I’ve been writing about the Oscars ceremony and how to save it, offering a number of suggestions on how to improve the ratings. (Find last year’s article here and other past articles here.) Luckily, buoyed with two blockbuster film nominations, the 2023 Oscar ceremony’s ratings were up 10% to 18.7 million viewers…but have the Oscars been saved?

Not yet. In spite of some ratings growth, yes, the Oscars still need “saving” for lack of a better term. Here’s the ratings over the last twenty-plus years:

Do I think the Oscars will ever reach those heady mid-90s heights of 50 million viewers? No. And the 40+ million viewers of just a decade ago are probably also out of reach. But the Academy (and the Disney corporation, who airs the show) should strive to get back to 30 million viewers. And I have some/three/four suggestions for how Disney, the Academy, and most importantly, Oscar voters, can help save Hollywood’s biggest showcase. 

First, Dual-Cast the Ceremony on ABC, Hulu AND Disney+

Why isn’t the Oscars ceremony on Disney+, Hulu or both yet? One third of all living room TV viewers are on streaming now:

If the Oscars only airs on ABC, one third of TV viewers just can’t watch it. (Including my researcher, an Oscar awards super fan.) If you want to “save” the Oscars and find possibly five to ten million more viewers for the show, this is where they are. On streaming. 

My working hypothesis is that the contract language only allows a linear broadcast, and the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences probably wants an extra paycheck from Disney to put it on streaming, and right now it’s not worth it to Disney to pay that extra amount.

But that shouldn’t matter to either party. Put the Oscars on ABC, Hulu and Disney+! 

(To be clear, if the situation were reversed and the Oscars were only on Disney+/Hulu/streaming, I think that would lower the ratings just as much, if not more. Again, dual-cast people.)

Second, Do an Actual Announcement Show

Here’s another suggestion: 

ABC/the Academy, do a primetime awards nomination show!

As I wrote last year:

“…why announce the nominees at six in the morning instead of doing an half-hour or hour long show, live on ABC, at eight o’clock? The NCAA tournament does this! So does the BCS. The NFL Draft moved to primetime. There’s no reason not to.”

Will this fundamentally change the Oscars trajectory? Probably not, but if I were Disney/the Academy, I’d be pulling out all the stops to generate interest in the show. And this is an easy, low cost value add. Or maybe Disney pays AMPAS for these rights, and then gets both shows on streaming and linear in a win-win deal.

Third, Nominate More Popular Films for Best Picture

Every year (for a while now) I’ve argued that the Oscars should nominate more popular films, since more popular films lead to a more popular Oscar ceremony. At first, this was just a thesis…then over the last three years, we’ve seen it come true:

The problem is that I think many voters will think their job is already done this year. Why?


Both films were smash hits at the box office, beloved by audiences, and adored by critics. 

Problem solved, right?

Not quite. You see, last year had the same thing: two giant blockbusters films (Avatar: The Way of Water and Top Gun: Maverick), one popular film (Elvis) and one almost popular film (Everything Everywhere All At One), and a bunch of smaller, unpopular prestige films. But looking at the projections for this year’s nominees (using the Gold Derby forecast) the situation looks to basically be about the same:

And even this might be optimistic. In the past, my threshold for a “popular” movie was over $100 million in box US office receipts, which is why I said Everything Everywhere All At Once was “almost popular”. Since movie ticket prices keep going up, even the $100 million threshold is technically lowering each year too. 

The Academy (especially Academy voters) needs to find at least one more popular film, preferably a blockbuster, to generate even more interest in the ceremony, and I know exactly what film they should nominate.

A Plea to Academy Voters: Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse Deserves a Best Picture Nomination. Not Just Best Animated Feature Film.

My process for finding more popular Oscar films is pretty simple. I look for a movie that was really popular (preferably at the box office) and beloved by audiences and critics. I don’t think a movie should get nominated just because it has monster box office returns (sorry Transformers franchise!); I want to find films that are both very popular but also really well made, using IMDb reviews and Metacritic scores as a rough barometer for quality.

This year, there’s one very, very obvious nominee:

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.

Boasting the third highest domestic box office of 2023, the sixth highest box office globally, an “A” Cinemascore, an excellent 86 weighted score on Metacritic, 95% positive reviews on Rotten Tomato, and an elite 8.6 rating on 329K reviews on IMDb, this film checks all the boxes for critical and popular acclaim. Plus it’s not just a great film, but it also tried something new with a ground-breaking visual style. Like Barbie, it’s not just a blockbuster, but a blockbuster that tried and succeeded at being different. 

If the Academy nominates Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, that would add a third, genuine blockbuster to the nominees this year, which should help the ratings for this year’s telecast. 

Are There Any Other Popular Films Worth Nominating?

Going through the options this year, I was hard pressed to find other popular films or blockbusters that seemed worthy of an Oscar nomination, with one crazy exception that I’ll mention at the very end. 

Again, my goal isn’t to dilute the quality of the Best Picture nominees. Instead, I want to make sure some popular films—that are also high quality—get nominated along with the usual prestige fare. But this year, it was much tougher to find films that checked off both boxes. There were dozens and dozens of really great prestige films/awards contenders (with many critics having completely different top ten lists from one another) that didn’t make much money at the box office (or get eyeballs on streaming), along with a dearth of critically-acclaimed blockbusters. 

Unlike most years, I’m hard-pressed to find anything else worth nominating, but here is who I considered.

Animated or Family Films

In past years, there’s been a wealth of great animated films that actually should have been nominated for Best Picture. Throughout the 2010s, Disney or Pixar reliably put out a giant, often seminal blockbuster that critics also loved, like Coco, Frozen, Moana, Encanto or Inside Out, all films the Academy relegated to Best Animated Feature category. 

But this year, it’s hard to justify nominating an animated family film (aside from Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, of course). The Super Mario Bros. Movie was a huge hit, but has a 46 on Metacritic and a 7.0 on 222K reviews IMDb. Same goes for Pixar’s Elemental, with a 58 on Metacritic and a 7 on 110K reviews IMDb. 

What about December’s most recent hit film, Wonka? I had high hopes for this one, but with a 7.3 on 58K reviews on IMDb and a 66 on Metacritic, I don’t think you can make the case that it has enough critical acclaim. 

Superhero or Blockbuster Films

Usually a superhero film deserves a nomination, but the Academy usually avoids rewarding them. (The omission of both Avengers and Avengers: Endgame still baffles me.) I looked at this year’s slate, and the second best candidate is Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, but even it only has a 64 on Metacritic, though it’s IMDb is a 7.9 on 361K reviews. That’s just on the edge of deserving a nomination.

But hey, Across the Spider-verse is a superhero film, so it will do double duty as superhero and animated title this year.

December’s Surprise Foreign “Hits” Actually Weren’t Big Hits, But Could Be Good Nominations Anyway

In December, two foreign films did the almost impossible: they took over US box office.

And both were beloved by audiences and critics. Godzilla Minus One has an 8.4 on 34K reviews on IMDb and, more surprisingly, an 80 on Metacritic, while The Boy and the Heron has a 91 on Metacritic and a 7.6 on IMDb. 

Personally, I’d be equally delighted to see either a genre film like Godzilla Minus One (a kaiju film no less!) get nominated or to see the Academy reward one of my favorite directors of all time (Hayao Miyazaki) with a Best Picture nomination. But I can’t pretend like either of these films was a huge box office hit, or even anything more than moderately popular, if that. (Despite a lot of headlines and punditry declaring otherwise.) The Boy and the Heron only grossed $39 million in the US and $140 million globally, with $50 million coming from Japan. Godzilla Minus One did $49 million, with only $72 million globally. 

For context, last year, I debated if Everything Everywhere All at Once was a hit with $70 million in box office, since I used to define “popular” as something with over $100 million in box office. Neither film even hit that low mark. 

Two Other “Almost” Popular Films

I’ll go ahead and lump The Color Purple in with the previous two movies. After a record setting opening day ($18 million on Christmas!), it’s only gotten to $54 million domestically. The Color Purple currently sitting at eleventh on the Gold Derby’s odds, so if it sneaks in, I think that’s probably for the best, adding diversity to this year’s nominees (which would prevent a backlash online and should help the ratings). 

Prime Video’s Air (12th on the Gold Derby odds) also only earned $52 million at the box office and 24.5 million hours viewed in its first four weeks on streaming. But at least Prime Video supported theaters and sent this to theaters. Speaking of…

Netflix’s Oscar Films Aren’t That Popular This Year. 

Like last year, when Netflix’s All Quiet on the Western Front got nominated instead of Glass Onion: A Benoit Blanc Mystery [sic], this year’s Netflix Oscar contenders aren’t all that popular. May December (13th best odds for a nomination according to Gold Derby), Nyad (sitting at 17th) and Rustin (22nd) didn’t make the Nielsen or Netflix global charts. We’re still waiting on Maestro’s (currently 6th on Gold Derby) streaming numbers, but it didn’t make the Netflix global charts the week it came out. Despite making a lot of critics top ten lists, David Fincher’s The Killer (29th) only made the charts for two weeks.

So Netflix can’t save the Oscars this year, unlike past years when Don’t Look Up was one of the only popular nominees of 2021, or The Glass Onion, which should have gotten a nomination last year. 

Want A Fourth Popular Film Nominee? Nominate John Wick: Chapter 4

Yeah, this might seem crazy to a lot of people, but with $187 million domestic and $432 million globally, this film was a huge hit, plus it has a respectable 78 on Metacritic and 7.7 on 316K reviews on IMDb. 

But it’s not so much about this particular film as much as much as recognizing this groundbreaking film franchise, a series that changed/revitalized/revolutionized a particular genre (action film). I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the Academy looking to give credit to any film or film series that revitalizes an entire genre, almost no matter what the genre is. (For example, whenever a romcom comes along that does something different and generates John Wick-style box office…give it a nomination!)

The purpose of the Academy Awards is to recognize “cinematic achievement” in film each year. Unfortunately, over time the Academy has developed a very narrow definition of what constitutes cinematic achievement. My researcher tries to get me to make this point almost every year, but often “prestige” films can be as cliched and formulaic as popular films. 

Or, put another way, the Academy shouldn’t be ashamed to celebrate and reward genres and films like “hard R action”. Indeed, you can see that if the Academy took my recommendations (say nominating Spider-Man: Across The Spider-verse, John Wick: Chapter 4 and The Color Purple) that films would be much more popular.

And the Oscar ratings would likely go up as a result too.

The Entertainment Strategy Guy

The Entertainment Strategy Guy

Former strategy and business development guy at a major streaming company. But I like writing more than sending email, so I launched this website to share what I know.


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