The lead up to the 91st Academy Awards has been anything but smooth. The last six months have been filled with controversy and several abandoned attempts to change up the traditional format of the show.
In August 2018, the Academy announced plans to add an award for achievement in "popular film." The idea was met with major backlash, with many worried that films considered for the award would not be considered for best picture, and therefor considered "second-class" films. Others in the industry felt that the inclusion of a popular film category was pandering and lessened the prestige of the awards. The Academy reversed their decision the next month.
In January, the Academy also reversed their decision to only have performances from two of the five Best Original Song nominees.
Then last week, it was announced that the awards for Cinematography, Film Editing, Live Action Short and Makeup and Hairstyling would not be aired live during the Feb. 24 broadcast, and instead be given out during the commercial breaks. That decision was also reversed after protests from members of the industry.
While all those changes planned for this year's show wound up being reversed, Hollywood's biggest night faces a big change it didn't account for: it will have no host.
Kevin Hart was announced as the show's host in December, but stepped down after backlash for homophobic tweets he wrote years ago. The Academy was left scrambling to find a new host, and ultimately decided to forgo one this year.
It's been nearly three decades since the Oscars didn't have a host to guide the program, and for good reason.
The last time the Oscars went host-less was in 1989, and the results were disastrous.
The show started with an 11 minute opening number by Rob Lowe and an actress playing Snow White. The awkward sketch was so bad that 17 Hollywood figures wrote a letter to the Academy condemning the performance.
“The 61st Academy Awards show was an embarrassment to both the Academy and the entire motion picture industry,” the letter stated. “It is neither fitting nor acceptable that the best work in motion pictures be acknowledged in such a demeaning fashion. We urge the president and governors of the Academy to ensure that future award presentations reflect the same standard of excellence as that set by the films and filmmakers they honor.”
To add insult to injury, Disney then sued the Academy for their unauthorized use of the Snow White character.
Ultimately, the 61st Annual Academy Awards in 1989 did well with its ratings, despite the harsh critique of its opening number.
The show earned 42.7 million viewers, which was more than in the previous five years. Last year's ceremony, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, had the lowest ratings in Oscars history, with only 26.7 million viewers, so this year's changes might just be what the show needs to make a comeback.