Oscar 2022 preview: Five big questions ahead of Sunday’s awards

The Oscar awards are returning to Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre after the pandemic sent the show to Union Station for a smaller, more intimate ceremony in 2021.

The Academy Awards have always loved a comeback story. This year, the Oscars are attempting to star in one, too. On Sunday, the Academy Awards will try to bounce back from a 2021 ceremony that was plagued by pandemic restrictions, a botched ending and record-low ratings. The 94th Academy Awards will return to their usual home, Los Angeles’ Dolby Theatre, and be broadcast live on ABC beginning at 8 p.m. EDT. (It’s also possible to stream it live on services like Hulu Live TV, YouTubeTV and on ABC.com with provider authentication.)
How much of the Oscars’ downturn should be chalked up to COVID-19? How much is it the new normal? These are just some of the questions that hang over an Academy Awards that feels like a crossroads for one of America’s most enduring pop-culture institutions, and still the most-watched annual show outside the Super Bowl.
Can the Will Packer-produced awards shrug off the pandemic, reverse years of declining ratings for network TV award shows and coalesce a big-tent event for a fast evolving movie landscape? In the interminable run-up to the springtime Oscars, many in the industry have been skeptical. Which leads us to the first of five questions heading into the show.
Will the Oscars’ latest makeover work?
The biggest drama heading into Sunday revolves around a broadcast that has been substantially retooled to stem the ratings slide. As if making up for several host-less years, this time there are three: Amy Schumer, Regina Hall and Wanda Sykes. Will their combined star power move the needle at all?
Facing pressure from ABC, the academy will also first present eight categories — production design, editing, sound, score, makeup and hairstyling, and the three short film awards — before the telecast begins. Clips of their wins and speeches will be edited into the show. Critics throughout the industry, though, have lined up to decry the change. The largest union representing behind-the-scenes workers, IATSE, on Monday called the decision detrimental to the “fundamental purpose” of the Oscars.
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So what will Packer do with the extra time? Beyoncé and Billie Eilish will perform their nominated songs. An eclectic group of presenters has also been announced, including some unexpected names like DJ Khaled, Tony Hawk, Sean “Diddy” Combs and Shaun White — so this could finally be the year that Judi Dench learns how to perform a “McTwist.”
Will a streamer take home Best Picture?