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Oscars a little less lavish this year

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Bill Radke: ABC has lowered the cost of a commercial during this Sunday’s Academy Awards. Last year, a 30-second Oscar ad went for as much as $1.8 million. This year’s spots are going for $1.4 [million] to $1.7 million. Part of that is the recession, of course. But TV ratings for the Oscars have also been weak
in recent years.

Joining us is the executive editor of Variety, Mike Speier. Mike, there is another issue dogging the Oscars,
which is that, once again, the best picture nominees are not the biggest box office hits.

Mike Speier: Yeah, and the Oscars really took a beating for that when they had an opportunity to nominate The Dark Knight. A lot of people came out and said, what’s going on? There’s a real big disconnect between the Academy and what the public wants, because the ratings have been really bad.

Radke: Well, that kind of sounds like integrity to me. We keep hearing that the ratings stink and they want the ratings to come back up. But, you know, they’re not selling out, they don’t like the movie they don’t like the movie.

Speier: That’s true. And there are some nominations that they got. Heath Ledger is probably the biggest shoe-in we’ve seen in awhile for supporting actor. So it’s not that they’re being forgotten, but at the same time, if the ratings are bad and you look back at the history and you see the Lord of the Rings and Titanic years, when they both won best picture, the ratings were really, really good and no one’s arguing those movies shouldn’t have won. So there are room for the blockbusters if they want to nominate the blockbusters.

Radke: Part of the Oscars is all the lavish galas and private receptions, and I understand those have been cut back this year. Is the movie industry really broke, or is that just PR?

Speier: It’s . . . all depends on who you ask and the spin you put on it. Box office is better than ever, there’s no argument there. But box office obviously has to deal with the fact that these movie companies are part of conglomerates, and the conglomerates are not doing very well. So right away that’s kind of easy discussion. The parties themselves, you know, a lot of people want to cut back ’cause it just looks a little too ostentatious to celebrate so lavishly in these times. Could be spin, could be a decision that they finally have the right to cut back so they’re going to. But the point is that there are fewer parties, and the parties that there are, they’re just cutting back on the little things — gift bags, invites, promos, things like that. So the parties are still there, the weekend’s still huge, everyone’s coming into town. But you just don’t hear, the mojo just isn’t there like it has been in the past.

Radke: I’ve heard that I can’t go to an Oscar party and get my skin exfoliated with diamond chips.

Speier: No, not this year. But we’ll see about next year. I’ll make some calls.

Radke: That hurts. Variety’s Mike Speier, thanks a lot.

Speier: Pleasure.

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