Feature: Why The Oscars should let go of the Los Angeles apron strings

Simon Jenkins wrote a very brave piece indeed for the Evening Standard recently about how The Oscars should be held in London next year. So many staunch industry bods will no doubt be scoffing at SUCH a mindless and unnecessarily patriotic suggestion that surely can only be fuelled by a hangover from this summer’s Olympic Games. However; given we are in an age where traditional media, entertainment and communications are all being bulldozed by a digital, non-location specific cloud approach, standing there with arms crossed refusing to let this international celebration of film spread its glory globally, looking much like an incorrigibly stubborn little Oscars statue, is surely quite backwards.

Yes – Los Angeles (or ‘La La Land’ as it has become affectionately known) has long been recognised as the primary nexus of the film industry. It has been calculated that there are around 108,000 actors and actresses currently residing in LA, which equates to almost 3% of the entire state’s population. It sounds quite small, but compare that to the state of New York, where only 0.3% are known to be actors or actresses, and the sheer density of them here becomes apparent. What’s more, it has been revealed there are well over 130,000 jobs in the film industry in LA, with on-location filming now up to 46,254 production days in a single calendar year – a 1.7% increase from last year. The number of production days for television, film, commercials, and new media has risen every year since 2009.

It *might* appear like I’m about to do a massive U-turn on this argument. Quite the contrary. What the above proves is that despite the huge state of flux this industry is experiencing, with consumers changing their entertainment consumption habits to be almost exclusively digital, the film industry is booming. This isn’t just specific to LA either – a leading accountancy firm has predicted that the US film industry is set for four years of healthy growth, defying predictions of a downturn due to internet piracy and waning DVD sales. The upturn is predicted to last until at least 2015 too, so this surge isn’t just an anomaly. In North America, the film industry is anticipated to generate $50.3bn in four years’ time compared to $40.8bn this year, which is growth of almost 20%.

AWESOME – right? So we’ve established that the film industry over the pond is doing just fine, so why not treat this like a very potent international business expansion opportunity? The Academy is after all essentially a business, that is “dedicated to the advancement of the arts and sciences of motion pictures”, as they quote proudly on their website. If you have a booming ‘office’ in one country, an inevitable next step is to expand abroad. Which is exactly why The Academy should consider sending its prized Oscars ceremony on an international tour – Olympics style. It would without a doubt encourage a much larger and more loyal global audience for film, explode box office sales, and in turn encourage mass investment in the industry from numerous new corners of the globe, creating more jobs and more films. Of course a radical and left-field suggestion such as this is going to come up against a world of resistance, but in terms of hitting the objectives that the Academy has set out to achieve, this approach would surely hit them square on, no?

The effect on local communities is also another positive outcome should The Academy ever take the leap. The UK is seeing a huge injection of funding for sports post Olympics – £19.4million to be exact. It would surely therefore be a fair assumption that post-Oscars hosting, local film organisations and community projects could also hope to see a similarly euphoric and positive legacy left behind for the film industry – meaning a move like this would not just be perceived purely as a PR exercise for LA and the American film industry. Also known as a win-win situation.

It can’t be ignored that the Oscars team are always going to be understandably obsessed with their viewing figures though. With a viewership of 37.6million last year, and a ticket price for a 30 second ad up at a cool $1.7million, this is prime real estate when it comes to driving hard revenue for the Academy. Now of course it’s hard to say exactly what slice of this money genuinely goes back to “the advancement of the arts and sciences of motion pictures”, and how much is absorbed into swollen exec salaries, but lets give them the benefit of the doubt for now. Imagine how those viewing figures would rocket up if the ceremony was held here in London, for example? Americans would undoubtedly still tune in to see how we handled it, plus time zones would mean so many more in Europe, Africa and the Middle Eastern could tune in, rather than having to watch highlights the following day.

So uncross your arms and embrace your true international destiny, you stubborn little Oscars statue you – share your most prized possession with the rest of the world, watch as your ceremony gathers exponentially more and more attention as nations compete to stage an even bigger and better event, whipping locals into a frenzy of film adoration.

We’re game. Your move, LA.

This piece can also be found on the Huffington Post here.

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