Oscars and the Movies in a Weird Pandemic Year

Mark Luetkehoelter, Librarian

A recent report in the library’s subscription database CQ Researcher entitled “Hollywood and COVID-19” examines the disruptive impact of the pandemic year on the motion picture industry already significantly disrupted by digital streaming technologies. Many movie theaters chains and independent theaters were forced to close. While some of them will come back, like many other aspects of our current life, it is unlikely the movie business will return completely to normal post pandemic.

If you have seen any of this year’s nominated films for the Academy Awards, being held this year on the unusual date of April 25, you likely streamed them at home rather than at a movie theater. As the CQ Researcher article points out, a lot of us did a lot of streaming during the pandemic, and surveys show people in large part may stick to streaming at home after the pandemic rather than go to a movie theater.

However, you may not have streamed as many films as you would have liked to because they are spread across so many streaming platforms (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Disney+, HBO Max, Apple TV, etc.) and many of us can’t reasonably afford to subscribe to all the services. Many, especially during the economic stress of the pandemic, find it hard to justify paying for any at all.

One of the upsides to so many streaming services right now is that they need content, creating more opportunities for independent and small market titles to find a home. One of those small market titles, Nomadland, is the betting frontrunner to win this year’s Best Picture. It seems a little ironic, though, that a film about people trying to survive in tough economic times, and that deserves to be seen by a wide audience, currently can only be seen by those with comfortable enough economic means to do so.

So, what does all of this have to do with the library? In addition to providing resources to do your research for classes and prepare to find a job, the Madison College Libraries also try to provide resources for students to enrich and broaden their views.

“Nomadland,” and many of the other films nominated this year cover themes of race, gender, class, social issues, economic issues, and more. Whether it’s a physical video, or more increasingly an e-video through one of our streaming video databases like Kanopy, we will try to provide free access for our students to many of these titles as they become available. Formats for delivery of information and stories change, and in this day and age they change pretty rapidly, but it is always part of the mission of the library to provide access to them.

Enjoy the Oscars!