Oscars may move to February. The Academy considers moving the ceremony up a month to shorten the divisive and expensive campaign season and to improve TV ratings

If you think Oscar season is way too long — what with some movies and actors already being touted for Academy Awards nine months from now — the Academy may well agree with you. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the Academy’s Board of Governors voted last week to explore the possibility of moving the ceremony up a month, from late March to late February, possibly as soon as 2004.

The effect of such a move would be to shorten the campaign season –which starts in mid-December, when the first critics awards are given out — from three and a half months to two and a half months. That would mean the studios could spend less money on trade paper ads, promotional screenings, and other campaign efforts. It might also mean less time for negative buzz and backlash to develop around contenders, like that surrounding this year’s much-nominated ”A Beautiful Mind.” Terry Curtin, currently the head of marketing for Sony-based Revolution Studios and formerly publicity chief at Universal during its ”Beautiful Mind” campaign, tells the Hollywood Reporter, ”A shorter campaign would charge members with voting on the merits of a movie and that is how it should be handled. It could also level the playing field for those movies that can’t launch expensive campaigns.”

The move would also put the ceremony into February sweeps month, which could mean more promotion from ABC and higher ratings. It could also allow the ceremony to jump ahead of some of the March awards shows that upstage the Oscars, like the Screen Actors Guild Awards and the Directors Guild of America Awards. However, a DGA spokesman says that his organization has already made contingency plans to move its 2004 awards gala to early February if the Academy makes its move. ”After hearing about the possibility of the Oscars moving up, we blocked a couple of dates, because there will be a lot of competition,” DGA special assignments executive Andrew Levy told the Hollywood Reporter.

In fact, the only people who might object to the move are studio distribution chiefs, who use the six-week period between nominations and the awards to boost the box office for nominated movies. ”I think the studios are going to hate it,” one Oscar campaigner told the trade paper. ”During the period between the nominations and the Oscars, a studio can make 30 million extra dollars. What studio will want to whittle that down?” However, the Academy says, if it moves up the awards, it will also consider moving up the date of the nominations.