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Oscars take on an interactive feel

Set will blur line between the performers and the audience
/ Source: The Associated Press

The Oscars are taking on an interactive feel this year.

Production designer Roy Christopher on Thursday unveiled a set that will blur the line between the performers and audience during the Feb. 27 telecast.

The set will curve out and over the audience from center stage, similar to the yellow brick road from “The Wizard of Oz,” and lead to the center of the ceiling at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood.

“It’s very unique and novel and special,” said producer Gil Cates, who is overseeing his record 12th Oscar telecast.

A 40-foot screen located in the stage floor and 26 screen panels floating over the audience will project moving images from current and past movies.

“We have a lot of new toys to play with this year,” Christopher said, showing off pictures and a set model at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences headquarters.

The 320 LED screens buried in the floor are covered with a 1½-inch thick sheet of Plexiglas that celebrities can walk across.

At center stage, a 40-foot Oscar will spiral upward through a floating ceiling piece. Christopher described it as “a bit of Busby Berkeley in an otherwise cutting-edge contemporary environment.”

There will be numerous lighting changes during the show. At one point, the set will be bathed in white, black and gold.

Christopher will use 26,000 feet of rods covered in gold leaf in various spots on the set, including the main podium.

Christopher is in his 16th year of designing the Oscar set, including 10 working with Cates.

“The single biggest challenge is to keep it fresh,” he said.

The choice of comic Chris Rock as host, the high-tech set and diversified presentations are part of an effort to boost sagging ratings for the show broadcast on ABC.

Cates has said some awards will be announced with nominees gathered on stage; others will be handed out to winners seated in the audience. His goal is to get TV time for every nominee.

As a result of the changes, some nominees will have to attend a separate rehearsal.