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In An Effort To Shorten Academy Awards Telecast, 4 Awards Won't Be Presented Live


Some Oscar winners this year will have to keep their thank-you's to the length of a commercial break. As NPR's Bob Mondello reports, this is the latest effort to shorten the marathon telecast.

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: The length of the Oscars telecast has long been the subject of both concern and jokes. In 1979, Oscars host Johnny Carson began his monologue with this quip.


JOHNNY CARSON: This is the 51st Annual Academy Awards - two hours of sparkling entertainment spread out over a four-hour show.


MONDELLO: Last year's Oscars ceremony came perilously close to that prescription, running three hours and 53 minutes while garnering the lowest U.S. viewership in Oscars history. The Motion Picture Academy committed to producing a three-hour show this year, and now they've revealed one way they hope to get to that running time. Four categories - best cinematography, film editing, live-action short and makeup and hairstyling - will be presented during commercial breaks. The presentations will be streamed live online while an edited version, including what members were told would be the spirit of the winning speeches, will be aired during the broadcast.

What home viewers won't see is the walk up to the stage and the lists of thank-you's. After watching a video demonstration of the edited format, six branches of the Academy opted in. Four were chosen this year and will be guaranteed a live spot in next year's broadcast. Academy President John Bailey explained in a letter to Academy members that viewing patterns are changing quickly in a multimedia world, and our show must also evolve to successfully continue promoting motion pictures to a audience.

Others criticize that view. Steve Yedlin, the cinematographer of "Star Wars: The Last Jedi," tweeted cryptically, TV show whose sole purpose is to package for public consumption the celebration of cinema craft announces that the celebration of cinema craft is too boring for public consumption.

While shortening the Oscars telecast has been a goal in recent decades, it wasn't always. In 1959, the telecast was scheduled for two hours and came up 20 minutes short, forcing co-host Jerry Lewis to vamp.


JERRY LEWIS: We would like to now do 300 choruses of "There's No Business Like Show Business."


MONDELLO: After a few moments of thanking anyone he could think of, he grabbed the orchestra leader's baton and led the band as the stage full of nominees danced away the remaining time. This year's ceremony will be Sunday, February 24. I'm Bob Mondello.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Ladies and gentlemen, may we take a moment to recap some of the outstanding awards given this evening at the 31st Annual Academy Awards. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Bob Mondello, who jokes that he was a jinx at the beginning of his critical career — hired to write for every small paper that ever folded in Washington, just as it was about to collapse — saw that jinx broken in 1984 when he came to NPR.