June 23, 2010 / 9:41 PM / 7 years ago

Oscar organizers consider moving up award show date

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Oscar organizers are considering advancing the telecast for the world's top film honors in 2012, which could speed Hollywood's awards season and create challenges for other programs and film studios.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said in a statement on Wednesday that the group's governing board has begun contemplating a possible date earlier than the current one in February, but no decision has been made.

"There are a number of questions still to be answered and challenges to be addressed with regard to moving the show to an earlier date," the statement said. "This idea is simply under consideration and being explored as a possibility."

Typically in recent years, the Academy has held the Oscars on the final Sunday in February, although some years it has lapsed into March. The 2011 Oscars remain set for February 27, the Academy said.

The proposed change, which the governing board discussed at a meeting this week, could have both a positive and negative impact on the film industry and the telecast, experts said.

The Academy Awards show is annually the second most-watched show on U.S. television and is seen by tens of millions around the world. This year, some 41.3 million U.S. viewers tuned in to see if blockbuster "Avatar" would win a trove of honors, but Iraq war film "The Hurt Locker" grabbed best movie.

The audience figure was up by 5 million viewers from the year before, defying a trend of recent years in which viewership has eroded as other industry groups, such as the Screen Actors Guild, began televising their own ceremonies.

Advancing the Oscars would give the telecast an earlier chance to be the first major awards show with A-list stars parading up the red carpet and accepting trophies with heartfelt speeches.

Other awards show like The Golden Globes typically plan ceremonies in advance of the Oscars, hoping to influence the race for Academy Awards and draw more viewers. With the Oscars in January, for instance, the other shows would be forced to cram their shows into a shorter schedule.

But a change might throw Hollywood's award season into turmoil and could hurt the box office of some low-budget films, such as past Oscar winner "Slumdog Millionaire," that rely on acclaim to lure audiences into theaters.

For film studios, shaving weeks off awards season would reduce the time in which they could promote the acclaim from nominations to get audiences into theaters.

"Moving up the Oscars would be catastrophic for a movies' financial success because it trims the amount of time they're in theaters," said veteran awards watcher Tom O'Neil of the TheEnvelope.com. "Already there's barely enough time to see all 10 best picture contenders once nominations are announced."

Reporting by Bob Tourtellotte; Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis

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