From ’Murder On The Dancefloor’ to internet sensation Amelia Dimoldenberg, this year’s biggest awards ceremonies want Gen Z to tune in.

Sophie Ellis-Bextor / Amelia Dimoldenberg

Source: Laura Lewis / Anne Reid

Sophie Ellis-Bextor / Amelia Dimoldenberg

Last year’s Bafta Film Awards ceremony did something that perhaps even the powers that be had not anticipated. It achieved the holy grail of the internet generation and became a meme.

More specifically, Ariana DeBose’s rap for the ceremony’s opening number – an empowering shoutout to all the female nominees during an interlude of her ‘Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves’/‘We Are Family’ mashup which included the infamous “Angela Bassett did the thing” line – became a meme. For better or worse (the viral moment became entrenched in much mockery directed towards DeBose), it got young people talking about the Baftas.

This year, the show’s producers look to be more intentional in their use of Gen Z catnip with popstar Sophie Ellis-Bextor taking to the stage on Sunday (February 18) to perform her 2001 hit ‘Murder On The Dancefloor’. The song has reignited in popularity after its use in that final scene of Emerald Fennell’s Saltburn, particularly striking a chord on TikTok where it’s helped push Saltburn-related videos on the app to over four billion views in addition to re-entering the UK singles chart at number two.

“Coming off the back of Saltburn and seeing how brilliant that was, it was just a simple call to Sophie [Ellis-Bextor],” says Lee Connolly, creative director at Penny Lane which is co-producing this year’s ceremony. “We’re going to do something a bit different with it though,” the producer teases.

On whether the aim is to attract younger audiences, Emma Baehr, Bafta’s executive director of awards and content, says there’s no “one size fits all” approach when planning the show for audiences. “We’ve got lots of different audiences – we’ve got our BBC audience, we’ve got the audience in the room, we’ve got our audience on our social platforms,” Baehr says. “Of course, we’ve got to make sure we keep engaging so it definitely plays a part.”

Reflecting on last year’s DeBose performance, Connolly admits they “had no clue” it would draw the level of attention it did. “But then, how would you know? That’s how viral moments work, you don’t plan them,” he adds.

Chicken Shop Oscars

It is not just the Baftas that hopes to lure in the ever-elusive Gen Z crowd. Across the pond, the Oscars recently announced the appointment of internet sensation Amelia Dimoldenberg as social media ambassador and red carpet correspondent.

The UK comedian and presenter is best known for her YouTube interview show Chicken Shop Date in which she takes various stars – including Paul Mescal, Jennifer Lawrence and Keke Palmer – on a “date” to a London chicken shop and asks them questions using her deadpan, awkward humour. Her videos often reach somewhere between 500,000 and 20 million views.

A source at the Academy tells Screen it was Dimoldenberg’s fun and relatable energy that made her a good fit for the show, hoping to bring a fresh and engaging perspective with her.

The Brit has already been drafted in for several high-profile film events including Barbie’s European premiere, the Golden Globes red carpet and last year’s Vanity Fair Oscars after party, but this will mark the 30-year-old’s most prestigious industry gig to date.

Her mission is to give audiences insight into the Oscars “like never before”. This includes a yet-to-be-released video series entitled Amelia’s Pre-Luncheon Luncheon made up of interviews with stars at the Nominees Luncheon (February 12) in the style of her viral YouTube show - the first peak of which featured the Anatomy Of A Fall dog Messi. The presenter will also conduct a “behind-the-scenes tour” of the Oscars during show week and regularly offer insider access on her social media channels before taking to the Dolby Theatre red carpet on March 10 for hosting duties.

The Academy felt it was important for young audiences to see their tastes, humour and pop culture references represented at the Oscars, according to a source, though they hope the addition of Dimoldenberg will be enjoyed by established audiences as well.

Anyone concerned how the likes of Martin Scorsese and Christopher Nolan will react to being asked about their star signs or dating “red flags”, both common questions among Dimoldenberg’s repertoire, and what this will mean for the general tone of the Oscars need not worry. The former is something of a TikTok sensation himself thanks to several videos his daughter, Francesca Scorsese, has posted with the 81-year-old to her five million followers.

As for Nolan, there is no denying the impact social media – which coined and celebrated ‘Barbenheimer’ – has had on Oppenheimer’s near $1bn box office. Even the most elite of Hollywood have learned to play ball with the Gen Z-populated spaces, even if they are not active on the sites themselves.

A Barbenheimer push?

barbenheimer 2

Source: Warner Bros / Universal

‘Barbie’, ‘Oppenheimer’

Oppenheimer will be the most nominated film of the night at both the Oscars and Baftas with 13 nominations, while its other half Barbie is not too far behind on eight and five respectively. At the latter, Saltburn – a title that has drawn similar buzz among the younger crowd – is nominated in five categories. Bafta’s own research discovered 65% of 18-24 year-olds agreed they are more interested in this year’s nominees than previously (an average of 27%). Do all roads point to higher ratings? 

If the Golden Globes is anything to go by, the answer could be yes. This year’s star-studded affair saw ratings climb by 49.2% with an average of 9.4 million people tuning in to watch host Jo Koy deliver some unfavourably received punches towards the guests.

“We’re very conscious that what we’ve got is a room full of exceptional people who are there to enjoy themselves, and we’re there to celebrate them and their work and film and so we very much totally take that approach,” says Bafta show producer Connolly. “Expect the tone to be very much full of fun and full of entertainment. There won’t be any sort of terrible gags at anyone’s expense.”

The more important question is whether Gen Z’s will tune in live or watch via clips on social media – the latter a preferred method among that generation when consuming event TV. Over at the Baftas, the organisation counts last year’s 20 million views across social media channels as a big win even if its live viewership remained relatively unchanged (2.5 million in 2022 vs 2.6 million in 2023).

“For us, we’ve got to look at what’s coming out of it,” Baehr says, citing the recent YouGov poll that stated two-thirds of audiences who watched the 2023 Baftas were encouraged to seek out the nominated films.

“The whole mission of Bafta is we want to celebrate film, we want to encourage people to watch the films, we want to encourage people into the industry. So for us, engagement has got to be across all levels.”