The 2018 Academy Awards, otherwise known as the Oscars, are taking place later than usual in the year thanks to the 2018 Winter Olympic Games. So how long are the Oscars, exactly? They take place over the course of one evening each year, so why couldn't a network run the Olympics against them? How did they end up running for so long in the first place? There's a lot to unpack with it.
A network wouldn't want to compete for viewers' attention, and while the Olympics air on NBC and its subsidiaries, the Oscars have a deal with ABC. They'll air on that network until 2020, at least. That's why this year's ceremonies were pushed to Sunday, March 4. This year will also mark the 90th Academy Awards, and they'll be hosted by longtime ABC late night host Jimmy Kimmel for the second year in a row. In recent years, the Oscars typically begin between 8 and 8:30 p.m. EST, and conclude roughly around midnight. Unlike the Golden Globe awards, it is not a sit-down dinner; there's no food and no booze. Throw in a few extended breaks in the ceremony, and a viewer is looking at close to four straight awards of Awards show bliss.
But why? Let's take a look.
"The Academy" is short or The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, or AMPAS. The Academy hands out awards in 24 categories every year, not including the science and technical categories. (Those take place in a separate Oscars ceremony that is not televised, though the annual broadcast takes a moment to celebrate them on TV all the same.) How do 24 awards plus speeches end up taking that much time? Well, it's not all award-giving. In fact, by 2018, the Oscars have so much going on, the award-giving-out is just a sample of it.
There are a few components that every Oscars broadcast traditionally includes. The In Memoriam tribute for industry members that have passed away since the previous year's ceremonies, for instance, will always happen. Even if the ceremonies keep the honors as brief as possible, this takes up time; they have to announce it, introduce it, and play the tribute reel. There's also a Lifetime Achievement Award, or honorary Oscar, that the Academy presents to an Oscar-less industry veteran. That also requires a lead-in video, an acceptance speech, and typically a standing ovation from attendees. Additionally, over the course of the night, presenters will roll a clip from the various Best Picture nominees. Why? That's genuinely unclear. Perhaps it's to celebrate the year in great filmmaking, but that's also the purpose of the entire night. All of the nominees for Best Original Song must be performed as well. (Yes, even South Park's "Blame Canada" was performed live during the show, since it was nominated.)
In between awards, the presenters banter with one another, or the host will play a lighthearted gag on the audience. These celebrity bits are always a good time, but it's easy for them to drag out the broadcast. Who wouldn't love delivery people showing up to find they're bringing pizzas to the Oscars, or Ellen spontaneously rounding up A-listers for the selfie seen around the world? They're fun and exciting. Only in Hollywood, after all. But when added to the honoraries, the tributes, the sketches, the time it takes for the host to emcee, commercial breaks, and acceptance speeches, it's understandable if you're exhausted by the time they reach Best Picture at 11:50 p.m. ET.
So, while the recent broadcasts have varied in length somewhat, the average Oscars broadcast is three and a half hours long. That includes everything: Awards, speeches, jokes, tributes, and commercials. It can seem like the Academy Awards ceremony spends a lot of time celebrating itself, but the majority of that is dedicated to honoring the groundbreaking industry members in their various fields. If you're planning to watch the 2018 Oscars, know that while it won't be the rumored 15-minute ceremony that took place in the 1920s, it also won't be the yawning four hour, twenty-two-minute long Oscar broadcast from 2002. Pop the popcorn and bust out your brackets, because awards season is about to wrap up.