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Academy Rehires Craig Zadan, Neil Meron to Produce Oscars

Producers will return after receiving mixed reviews but high ratings

The Academy has rehired Craig Zadan and Neil Meron to produce the 86th annual Academy Awards less than two months after they received extremely mixed reviews but high ratings for the 85th Oscars, AMPAS announced on Tuesday.

The move is likely the earliest that the Academy has ever hired Oscar producers. Selecting the show producers is typically the first job of the new Academy president, who takes office in August, though recent rule changes have allowed a president to begin a search before the end of his term.

The current president, Hawk Koch, is not eligible for re-election because of term limits on the Board of Governors, so Zadan and Meron will be working with a new president for the bulk of their production time.

AMPASThe last Oscars show, which was hosted by Seth MacFarlane, was savaged by many critics for the host's occasionally tacky manner – particularly in his “We Saw Your Boobs” opening song – and for odd production choices, such as highlighting the 11-year-old musical “Chicago,” which Zadan and Meron produced.

But it was a rare recent Oscar show to top 40 million viewers, and an Academy member with knowledge of the discussions said that ABC strongly encouraged AMPAS to bring back Zadan and Meron.

The Academy press release announcing the selection lauded the producers for displaying "a signature style that incorporated a single concept for the entire evening."

The two producers are currently working on a new miniseries version of “Bonnie and Clyde” with Emile Hirsch, and they are slated to produce a live, televised version of “The Sound of Music” at the end of the year. They also work on the TV series "Smash."

Zadan and Meron will be the first producers to take charge of consecutive Oscar shows since the late Gil Cates did it in 2005 and 2006. Cates holds the record for the most Oscar shows produced, with 14 between 1990 and 2008. (He was also the last producer to do what Zadan and Meron did, and announce a theme for many of his shows.)

When they took the job of producing the 85th Oscars last August, Zadan and Meron both said that doing the show was the top item on their personal “bucket lists.” (They produced the 2007 film of that name.)

The AMPAS press release:

BEVERLY HILLS, CA – The acclaimed motion picture, television and theater producing team of Craig Zadan and Neil Meron will return to produce the Oscars for a second time next year, Academy President Hawk Koch announced. The Academy Awards® will air live on ABC on Oscar® Sunday, March 2, 2014.

“Craig and Neil have the overwhelming support of the Academy's Governors to produce the Oscars again in 2014," said Academy President Hawk Koch. "In order to establish continuity with this year's enormously successful show, we felt it was important to give these consummate professionals the green light now to begin creating another great evening."

"We are very honored to have been asked to return as Oscar producers for a second year," said Craig Zadan and Neil Meron. "We look forward to creating a distinctive and entertaining show."

“Craig and Neil have great relationships, a sense of showmanship, and a passion for our Academy,” said Academy CEO Dawn Hudson. “And they're a pleasure to work with.  All perfect qualities for our show."

The February 2013 Oscars hosted by Seth MacFarlane, drew an average audience of 40.3 million total viewers and delivered a 13.0 rating among adults 18-49.  The show was TV's most-watched entertainment telecast in the last 3 years, and grew its overall audience for the 2nd straight year (+3%), surging 11% in adults 18-49 (13.0 rating vs. 11.7 rating) to its best numbers since 2010.  In addition, the show scored gains year-to-year with adults 18-34 (+20% – 11.3 rating vs. 9.4 rating), hitting its highest number in 6 years – since 2007. Overall, it was the Oscars second-most-watched telecast since 2005.

Among the innovations that Zadan and Meron plan to bring back to the 2014 show is the Oscar Experience College Search, which allows young filmmakers to assist with bringing the Oscar statuettes on-and-off stage during the show.

The Zadan/Meron Oscars displayed a signature style that incorporated a single concept for the entire evening which linked together the disparate elements of the Oscar show through music, especially classic movie themes and the frequent appearances by MacFarlane to announce the evening's presenters.  The 2013 show was also distinguished by the use of motion picture talent as performers in the show such as the dance numbers performed by Charlize Theron, Channing Tatum, Daniel Radcliffe, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Zadan and Meron served as executive producers for the 2002 “Best Picture” winner “Chicago,” which won Oscars® in 6 of the 13 categories in which it was nominated. Their credits also include the features “Footloose” (2011), “Hairspray,” and “The Bucket List.”  Zadan also produced the original “Footloose” (1984).

Zadan and Meron's work in television includes the series “SMASH” and such movies as “A Raisin in the Sun” and “Steel Magnolias.”

For Broadway, they recently produced the Tony Award® winning revivals of “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” and “Promises, Promises.”

Their work has amassed 73 Emmy® nominations; 12 Tony nominations; and seven Grammy® nominations.

The Oscars will be held at the Dolby Theatre™ at Hollywood & Highland Center® in Hollywood, and will be televised live by the ABC Television Network.  The Oscar presentation also will be televised live in more than 225 countries and territories worldwide.