Ripple effects: How the earlier Oscar nominations date makes waves through award season

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What difference could five days make?

The Academy Awards decision yesterday to shift its nominations day from Jan. 15 to Jan. 10 actually creates some hardship for films opening at the very end of the year and manages to upstage a handful of other awards events that derive power from their perceived ability to influence Oscar voters.

By making the move, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences effectively reasserts itself as the influencer, rather than the group that can be swayed by other trophy ceremonies. Hollywood’s “award season” has been reestablished as “Oscar season” once more.

Here’s some analysis of how the changes break down.

Ripple: With its earlier nominations announcement, the Academy also moved up its deadline for nomination votes to Jan 3. This is actually the more significant change. Last year, the ballots were due back on Jan. 13, which provided significantly more time for voters to see films that came out during the lucrative end-of-year holiday period.

Effect: Films such as Django Unchained and Les Miserable (which unfortunately announced its own date shift from Dec. 14 to Dec. 25 just hours before the Academy announced its own change) will have to hustle harder to capture Academy voter attention as they debut in the last days of 2012. These two films in particular were shot over the summer and are in a dash to be finished by the end of the year, so moving their release dates earlier isn’t much of an option. They’re going to have to rely much more heavily on early screenings for voters and critics, which just adds pressure for them to finish work on the movies as fast as possible.

Other late 2012 movies such as On the Road (which debuted at Cannes last May and opens Dec. 21) or Dustin Hoffman’s directorial debut Quartet (which was a hit at the recent Toronto film festival and debuts in limited release Dec. 28) may now be looking to take their finished products to market a little earlier. Next year, look for all of the major awards contenders to be out in theaters by mid-December at the latest.

Ripple: To avoid being overshadowed by the new Oscar noms date, the Directors Guild of America bounced its own Jan. 10 film nominations announcement to Jan. 8.

Effect: This is actually a very minor ripple for the DGA Awards, which has a great track record of 90% accuracy for picking the eventual Oscar-winner for best director. (In their 65-year history, the winner has gone on to claim the Academy Award 59 times.) The group will also have to move up its ballot deadline, since it was previously set for Jan. 9 — now one day after when they plan to reveal the contenders.

DGA spokesperson Sahar Moridani told EW the new date would be Jan. 7. Easing the transition for the DGA is its forward-thinking efforts to bring new technology to its voting process. All the DGA noms are voted on digitally, which is what allowed them to close out voting only one day before announcing the results.

Ripple: The Golden Globe Awards ceremony is set for Jan. 13, which was previously two days before the Academy noms announcement, but now comes three days after it.

Effect: The change here will hit the broader movie-consuming public more than the voting insiders. Last year’s Oscar nomination ballots were due Jan. 13, and the Golden Globes ceremony was held on Jan. 15 — so the Globe finalists had zero impact on who got nominated, although you could still argue the mid-December nominations of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (which gives out the Globes) influence the overall conversation.

The Globes had sought more relevance this year by shifting ahead of the perceived Oscar nominations deadline this year, only to have the Academy counter by leapfrogging them and maintaining the status quo. The HFPA hasn’t officially commented on whether it will attempt to move the ceremony date, or even whether NBC would allow it, but a source close to the awards tells EW that the date is locked in and will not change, although it’s unclear if the group will try to set an even earlier ceremony for next year.

Whatever happens, there isn’t much hope of going earlier than Jan. 3, unless they Globes intend to transform themselves into a holiday special.

Ripple: The Palm Springs International Film festival has been a major campaign stop for Oscar wannabes to see and be seen in the final week before Oscar nomination ballots are due.

Effect: With the festival starting this year on Jan. 3 — the same day as the new voting deadline — turning up in the desert to be photographed on the red carpet, participate in Q&As, and schmooze with voters would seem to be a futile exercise, at least in terms of influencing the nominations. Those who do find themselves to be nominated, however, may find Palm Springs to be a strong early platform for the final race. But they won’t know for sure if they’re nominated, so a full-court press at the festival will be more of a gamble than a must-do this year.

For more film news

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Academy announces key Oscars dates: nominations moved up five days

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