When the curtain comes up on the 83rd Academy Awards on Sunday, the show's producers hope to reconnect movie fans with Hollywood history as well as use technology and imagery to engage younger fans of the future.
Producers Don Mischer and Bruce Cohen hired James Franco, 32, and Anne Hathaway, 28, to host the show and all week, the pair have put out teaser videos on the Web of them "training" for their hosting duties and avoiding a "wardrobe malfunction." In one, they mimic John Travolta and Olivia Newton John in a song-and dance number from the musical "Grease."
It is the first time in Oscar history that a man and woman have been co-hosts, and Hathaway is the youngest ever emcee for the show, beating out Donald O'Connor, who was a co-host in 1954, Cohen told a news conference on Friday.
He and Mischer insisted that when they first thought about bringing Franco and Hathaway on board as co-hosts, they hadn't thought about trying to appeal to younger audiences. But as they developed the show, their hosts' youth naturally lent itself to ideas that would appeal to younger audiences.
"As we've been putting the show together, we've naturally come up with things that go that way," Cohen said. "We all feel it's a real exciting thing. This is the next generation of moviegoers," he said.
In recent years, viewership has been eroding for the Oscars telecast, which is annually the second most popular TV show in the United States. Last year's telecast was the most-watched in five years with about 42 million viewers, but a large part of that was due to the popularity of best film nominee "Avatar," which had scores of younger fans.
The telecast generally sees viewership increase when popular movies are up for awards. The high-water mark was 1998 when 57 million people tuned in to watch smash hit "Titanic" win best film. The low was 2008 when about 32 million tuned in for a victory by adult drama "No Country for Old Men."
The producers and the show's organizers at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences generally only provide a few glimpses of what will be staged, and on Friday, they were characteristically quiet on details.
One element they did discuss was the lack of elaborate sets on stage, and the use of contemporary technology — Twitter, Facebook and cameras backstage and on the red carpet streaming video on the Web.
Cohen said one aim was to connect audiences with what made them love movies in the first place. For instance, when the award for best animated film is given, the show will hearken to the winner of the first animated Oscar, "Shrek" in 2001, by showing images of that film's fairy tale landscape setting.
"Hopefully," added Cohen, "it gives a fun, exciting context to the Oscars."
One element the producers hope to avoid are the long, boring acceptance speeches with many "thank yous" read word-for-word from stars looking at notes on pieces of paper.
Mischer said those speeches cause viewers to turn the TV channel, but when stars get excited or speak from the heart, audiences stay tuned. "They want to see when people are moved, or touched," Mischer said.
The Oscars air live in the United States on the ABC TV network on Sunday, Feb. 27 at 8 p.m. est/5 p.m. pst, as well as in some 200 countries worldwide.
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