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Peter Bart: Academy Reminds Voters That Oscars Still Matter Even In Moment Of Cutbacks, Strike Talk And Crushing Corporate Debt

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With today’s “urgent reminder” directed to its membership, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences again is doing its damnedest to get out the vote.

The Oscar event is still a battlefield of “gold, sweat and tears” as portrayed in Oscar Wars, Michael Schulman’s new book, despite the ominous industry challenges.

Indeed this year’s Oscars already have conveyed a surreal energy – witness Jamie Lee Curtis’ renewed stardom at age 65. Yet, having collected its formidable array of honors, even the cast of Everything, Everywhere All at Once may feel gratitude depletion by March 12 Still, the coming Best Picture winner may have relatively modest impact at a moment when the giant cathedrals of show business are struggling to reduce their mountains of debt and meet the threat of a writers strike. “The Oscars saved my ass,” effused Joe Levine in 1967 when The Graduate pulled an Oscar upset (Levine ran the indie Embassy Pictures, which funded the Mike Nichols movie).

The lexicon of Oscar winners has since changed radically. A win today, in Bob Iger’s argot, would “reinforce monetization capability for our legacy platforms.” To Warner Bros Discovery’s David Zaslav, a Best Picture will translate into “preserving optionality through the strategic mix of distribution and windowing.” Translation: The Oscar show seems almost a distraction at a time when media giants are frazzled by a pervasive weakness in advertising and the inflation in streaming numbers.

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