The Oscars almost had a viewers' choice award years ago that people would vote for online - here's why it never happened

The Oscars almost had a viewers' choice award years ago that people would vote for online - here's why it never happened

Tina Fey Mark Boal Robert Downey Jr AP


Tina Fey and Robert Downey Jr. with "Zero Dark Thirty" screenwriter Mark Boal (center) after presenting him with the best original screenplay Oscar at the 82nd Academy Awards in 2010.

  • 2010 Academy Awards producer Bill Mechanic came up with an idea to make the show more hip: a viewers' choice award.
  • He told Business Insider why it never happened.

It turns out the idea of creating a popular movie category for the Oscars isn't the most radical idea to make Hollywood's biggest night more hip.

Nine years ago the show almost had a viewers' choice award.

Bill Mechanic, who produced the 82nd Oscars - hosted by Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin in 2010 - said leading up to the show he hoped to give it a shot in the arm by presenting a new award that people at home could participate in.


"I thought in keeping with today's world there should be a popular vote online during the show from the audience," Mechanic told Business Insider.

Mechanic - a former Fox executive and producer of best-picture nominee "Hacksaw Ridge" - produced the show with Adam Shankman (director of "What Men Want") and delivered one of the highest-rated in the last decade (almost 42 million viewers) thanks to the rare two-host approach and having one of the biggest box-office hits of all time as a best picture nominee, "Avatar." (The win went to "The Hurt Locker.")

But Mechanic's hopes to do something radical while keeping the integrity of the night, he said, "fell on deaf ears."

"A lot of people in the Academy don't want to change anything and I think they are wrong not from a purist standpoint but from an entertainment standpoint," he said.

2010 Oscars AP


Steve Martin (L) and Alec Baldwin with "The Hurt Locker" director Kathryn Bigelow at the 2010 Academy Awards.

This is one of the reasons why Mechanic resigned from its board of governors last year.


In a strongly worded letter to the president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Mechanic said the leadership had "failed to move the Oscars into the modern age." He added that the show was "long and boring" and that over the past decade, the Academy had "nominated so many smaller independent films that the Oscars feel like they should be handed out in a tent."

Read more: OSCARS ON LIFE SUPPORT: Academy insiders describe the problems plaguing Hollywood's biggest night, and how it could rebound

"All my criticisms of when I quit the board are still valid," Mechanic told Business Insider recently. "The simplest thing about the Academy, which is what got me riled up, is you have the best artists working, period, and that the membership is not being used to the degree that it should be is, to me, wrong ... Every idea should be considered."

But the ideas that the Academy came up with in an attempt to keep this year's Oscars (airing Sunday) from running at just three hours didn't go over well.

There was the idea of cutting out some of the performances from the best song nominees. Then there was a plan to give out some technical awards - like cinematography and editing - during commercial breaks. Both were scrapped following tremendous blowback on social media and within the movie community.


Mechanic wasn't involved with the idea of a popular Oscar (which was also scrapped following public outcry) when he was on the board of governors, but he believes something like a viewers' choice category can work.

"That takes nothing away from the artistic achievement for best picture," he said.