The Oscar campaign trail just took a detour to London. The British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) this week confirmed it will move next year's film awards to a pre-Academy Awards slot, a move expected to boost the event's global significance by establishing it as a prime pointer for the Oscars.
The move from April 9 to February 25 means the awards come just a month before the Oscars. Even the Golden Globes, traditionally a bellweather for the Oscars, come as far back as January. Adding to the awards' potential significance, BAFTA has remained an international rather than a purely British showcase.
While this year's event was judged a success, particularly in terms of stars attending, some BAFTA insiders felt it had a sense of "deja-vu" coming after the Oscars. American Beauty repeated its Oscar triumph by winning in six categories.
"As a platform, the new date will undoubtedly attract even more international talent to the ceremony, increasing its stature and influence considerably," said BAFTA chairman Simon Relph.
BAFTA spent last week wooing distributors' support for the move. Amongst the concerns raised were doubts that US stars would interrupt their US Oscar campaigns to visit London.
But supporters point to an anticipated surge of interest from the worldwide media, while many expect more stars to come if the event has a bearing on the Oscars. "It will also encourage more nominees to attend, rather than just those who've already won an Oscar," said DreamWorks' Peter Dunne.
Others argue that the cost of bringing talent to London will be better justified if the event is part of the Oscar campaign. The awards may also have more value to marketing departments, coming closer to the UK opening of Oscar contenders.
"One more award before the Oscars' Why not'" said Nadia Bronson, Universal Pictures' US-based president of international marketing, distribution and operations. "The BAFTAs are all about international movies, so they have a marketing value. But the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards are the most important awards for me and the Academy Awards will always be the grand finale."