The Oscars will move to February. The Academy and ABC hope to boost the awards telecast's ratings by moving it closer to sweeps period, starting in 2004

The Academy Awards telecast may seem to last forever, but at least the movie awards season will be shortened. After a couple weeks spent mulling the idea of moving the Oscars from the end of March to the end of February, the Academy has made the move official, Variety reports. ”I think you could consider this a done deal,” Academy executive director Bruce Davis told the paper.

As a result, in 2004, the ceremony will take place on February 29. At issue were the availability of the Kodak Theater and the approval of ABC. While the network would love to air the show during February sweeps period, the 29th falls just outside of the four weeks of sweeps, but the Academy couldn’t compress the nomination period any further. Still, ABC will be able to promote the awards show during its other heavily-watched sweeps programs. So ABC has signed off on the switch. ”Whatever’s good for the Academy Awards is good for us,” ABC Television Network president Alex Wallau told Variety.

Davis said that the move was mostly about boosting the telecast’s ratings, which have slid in recent years, not about shortening the campaign season to make it less expensive for the studios and less divisive, as this year’s ”Beautiful Mind” brouhaha was. ”This is not a campaign issue,” Davis said. ”They [the Academy board members] were looking at the fact that ratings have been ticking downward.” Still, as Wallau noted, the shorter season will steal some of the thunder from other pre-Oscar awards shows, and it will keep the movies fresher in the minds of viewers at home.

The Academy calls the move ”a two-year experiment,” so it’s possible that the show date could fall during sweeps in the future, or move back to March. Still, Davis said, ”This is an experiment worth trying.”