Drumming up Oscar interest

Ratings have bounced around these last few years, from 33 million viewers in 2003, when "Chicago" took most everything, to 42.1 million in 2005, when Clint Eastwood's "Million Dollar Baby" was named Best Picture. The NYT's Stuart Elliott says that viewership often depends on how familiar folks are with the movies and actors nominated (the Super Bowl, by contrast, draws around 90 million viewers every year, no matter who is playing). There's no way to know what this year will bring, but ABC and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science's ad agency, L.A.'s TBWA/Chiat Day, will try to drum up interest over the next few weeks. ABC is using Ellen DeGeneres, who will host the Feb. 25 event, while the Academy has Spike Lee directing a series of commercials that pay homage to some of yesteryear's great films (can't they come up with something a tad more original?). Print and outdoor ads are also planned. High viewership is not only good for the industry's ego - it helps jack up ad rates. Last year, a 30-second spot was going for $1.7 million, up from $1.6 million the year before. A 30-second ad during this year's Super Bowl goes for $2.6 million.

In the past, “we were relying on the glory of the Oscars,” said Sidney Ganis, president of the academy. “We’ve come to learn nothing totally promotes itself.”

"Dreamgirls" snub: Nikki Finke says there's been industry buzz throughout award season that the Motown musical "wasn't that good," despite all the hype (I agree). There's also the David Geffen factor.

Those prickish Academy Award members are sending a message here. What is it? That David Geffen, as rich and powerful as he is, will be denied what he wants -- which is to exit the movie industry accompanied by Oscar. And they do this simply because they can. Yes, year after year, spite plays a huge part in the Academy's nominating process. Individually, none of the Oscar voters would dare take on David. But there's safety in numbers, so what the hell.

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Mark Lacter
Mark Lacter created the LA Biz Observed blog in 2006. He posted until the day before his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
Mark Lacter, business writer and editor was 59
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