The Oscars are on Sunday and change is in the air

The cast of

The cast of “Coda” accepts the award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture and signs “I Love You” at the 28th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at Barker Hangar on Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022 in Santa Monica , Calif. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

For the first time in two years, the Oscars are rolling out the red carpet at the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles for what the film academy hopes will be a return to Oscar normalcy. Except for everything that has changed.

The telecast of the 94th Academy Awards will begin, as usual, at 8 p.m. EDT on ABC. But little else about how this year’s Oscars will kick off is traditional. An hour before the show starts, attendees will gather in the Dolby for the presentation of eight awards and acceptance speeches that will be edited into a show that producer Will Packer has promised will last three hours.

It’s one of many changes, both slight and tectonic, surrounding this year’s ceremony. After two years of the pandemic — and a socially distanced 2021 edition with record-breaking ratings — the Oscars will attempt to reclaim their elated place in pop culture with a revamped show that’s set to see a streaming service win best picture for the first time.

It won’t be easy. The film industry has recovered significantly from the pandemic in 2021, but despite one of the biggest hits in years in “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” the rebound has been choppy. The global movie industry sold about half the tickets last year as they did two years ago, $21.3 billion in 2021 versus $42.3 billion in 2019, according to the Motion Picture Association. Hollywood has pushed more of its best movies straight into homes than ever before; half of the 10 nominees for Best Picture this year aired at or very close to release. Even the film academy has moved entirely to a streaming platform for voters, rather than DVD screens.

Then there are the challenges of garnering global attention for a night of Hollywood complacency after two years of the pandemic and as the Russian war ravages Ukraine. Packer said the war in Ukraine would be respectfully acknowledged on the show.

Netflix’s ‘The Power of the Dog’, Jane Campion’s gothic western, arrives with 12 nominations in the lead and a good shot at the top prize. But all the impetus is with Sian Heder’s tone-deaf family drama “CODA,” which, despite just three nods, is considered the frontrunner. A win would be a triumph for Apple TV+, which acquired the film from the Sundance Film Festival last year and spent a lot of money promoting it to academy members.

But expect the most awards of the night to go to “Dune,” Denis Villeneuve’s sci-fi epic. This is the rating of the favorite to clean in the technical categories.

After several years without a host, the Oscars will turn to the trio of Amy Schumer, Wanda Sykes and Regina Hall to host the show, which also airs on platforms including Hulu Live TV, YouTubeTV and on ABC.com with authentication from the supplier. Producers have also lined up a star-studded cast of performers, including Billie Eilish and Beyoncé, to sing nominated songs, while the “Encanto” cast will perform Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hit “We Don’t Talk About Bruno.”

It will be a staggered start, with stars entering Dolby at different times. ABC’s red carpet pre-show will run from 6:30-8 p.m., with the first hour of the awards show taking place inside the theater between 7-8 p.m. To accommodate the change, the red carpet will also open an hour earlier than usual, at 4 p.m. EST.

The revamped approach, which has been deeply unpopular with some members of the academy, is expected to result in complicated red carpet logistics. The academy, wanting to give each winner an uncompromising moment, urges entrants to be in their seats by 7 p.m. Some stars, like Jessica Chastain, nominated for ‘The Eyes of Tammy Faye,’ have said they won’t be doing red carpet interviews if it means missing out on awards like best hair and makeup, for which the artists of “Tammy Faye” are nominated.

It’s one of eight pre-show categories to be given out during what producers call “the golden hour.” The others are: film editing, sound, original music, production design, live action shorts, animated shorts and documentary shorts.

Earlier this month, more than 70 Oscar winners including James Cameron, Kathleen Kennedy and Guillermo del Toro warned the change would turn some nominees into “second-class citizens”.

Behind this change is concern over the rapid decline in Oscars ratings. While declines have been common to all of the network’s major awards shows, last year’s show only drew around 10 million viewers, less than half of the year’s 23.6 million. former. Ten years ago it was closer to 40 million.

To help restore the Oscars standing, some have argued ahead of this year’s awards that a blockbuster like “Spider-Man: No Way Home” should have been nominated for best picture. It’s just for visual effects.

Instead, a wide range of films are on the hunt, ranging from Netflix’s highly-watched doomsday comedy “Don’t Look Up” and acclaimed three-hour Japanese drama “Drive My Car.”

One thing the producers have promised: the final prize of the evening will be that of the best picture. Last year’s show ended awkwardly with the unexpected best actor presentation to an absentee Anthony Hopkins.

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Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP

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For more on AP’s Oscars coverage, visit: https://apnews.com/hub/academy-awards

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