The official ceremony begins on Sunday, February 9 at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT, and will most definitely push the envelope towards midnight. Typically, the show runs about three hours. Since it’s taped live, however, the exact length is different each year. With no host for the second year running, our guess would be that Oscars 2020 will last about three hours. Set your timer for 11 p.m. (Okay, 11:15 p.m. — let's be realistic.)
What’s to blame for the long runtimes? In addition to pre-planned performances, the ceremony is full of moving parts that can’t be predicted in advance. Take backstage malfunctions, or how long it takes winners to walk to the stage and deliver their speeches.
As you stifle a yawn around hour three this Sunday, thank your lucky stars it’s not 2002. The Whoopi-hosted 74th Academy Awards clocked in at 4 hours and 23 minutes, far past midnight. Now that’s a doozy.
Following 2002’s whopper of a ceremony — which was last in a long line of four hour-long ceremonies — the Academy has made a concerted effort to keep runtime down. Starting with the 2016 Oscars, all nominees submit a list of people they’d like to thank, which runs along the bottom of the screen during the speech. In addition to speeding up ceremonies, this quick fix livens up speeches.
Considering that the Academy doles out 25 awards over the course of the evening, it’s a miracle the award show isn’t longer. We have the orchestra, boldly cutting off acceptances speeches mid-sentence, to thank for whatever semblance of brevity that exists.