Declining Ratings, Secret Plans – Can The Oscars Be Saved?

You tell us, we’ll tell you. TheWrap tries to get to the bottom of what is working and what isn’t, starting with a Grilling of AMPAS President Sid Ganis.

Last Updated: February 9, 2009 @ 6:41 PM
Sid Ganis, President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, gets Grilled…
 
Last year’s Oscars were the lowest rated ever in the telecast’s history. What have you done to change that for this year?
 
Who wants to be the lowest rated Oscar show ever? We are rejiggering the show. Rethinking it. Remarketing it. And whaddya know, the movies we have as Best Picture this year are helping us along, they are much more in the mainstream. Between ‘Slumdog’ – a populist movie – and ‘Ben Button’ – a big, successful, Hollywood type movie, ‘Frost/Nixon’ – serioso, but populist studio movie, and then Milk – which has Sean Penn doing his rather incredible performance. So, yes, the ratings were low — too low — last year. And we are working, all of us, to change that. 
 
What’s wrong with the Oscars generally? Why aren’t people watching them? Maybe awards shows are just passé?
 
I don’t know if people don’t want to watch awards shows. But the Oscars are the standard for film all over the world. On a souvenir stand, the Oscar remains a symbol of excellence. So I don’t think it’s old fashioned. I don’t think it’s out of date. I don’t necessarily think people don’t want to watch award shows. We’re gonna give ‘em something that’ll prove that point. 
 
We hear all kinds of rumors about the telecast. You have Hugh Jackman hosting and Laurence Mark and Bill Condon producing. Will it be done all in song?
 
Of course not. Who says some of it will be in song? Here’s a way to describe it: opening monologue, the music plays, the award comes. This year you’re not going to be able to do that. You’re going to be surprised as a viewer, or coverer of show in what you’re gonna see. Absolutely surprised. You won’t be able automatically, like Pavlov, to react. We have 24 awards to give, plus honorary – we’re going to engage them on TV and in the house in a much more intimate way. 
 
Well, you once tried putting the nominees on stage?
 
We tried, it didn’t work, we moved on.
 
How many ways are there to hand someone a statue?
 
Ah-ha. There are a couple of ways you haven’t seen in the past. 
 
Who is the great innovator here?
 
It’s the producers, definitely. Bill and Larry are the architects of this new 3-hour – or under – show. 
 
Sigh. Does it have to be 3 hours?
 
It doesn’t. We might come in under three. 
 
Maybe it should be two?
 
We have thought about it, and we don’t believe we can cover it in two. We need three. 
 
Remember Chris Rock? That was almost four hours. 
 
That was a big, long show. I watched it from home. It was a totally entertaining show – knocked your socks off – but that was a long, long sit.  We’re not doing that.
 
The Golden Globes did dismally this year. Weren’t they boring?
 
I didn’t watch it myself. I glimpsed it out of the corner of my eye, guiltily. They can be boring. Awards shows can be boring. 
 
If that’s true, then what’s the alternative? Delivering statues to peoples’ houses and putting it up on YouTube?
 
There might be a day when we have to do something beyond what we’re doing now. Today’s not the day. Internationally, this show gains momentum year by year. 
 
They used to say the Oscars were watched by a billion people.
 
Nah. It would be nice. 
 
READ ALSO: Lonelygirl15 Creator Miles Beckett on how to make the Oscars more relevant.