Oscar producers say show comes with youthful edge

Fri Feb 25, 2011 8:17pm EST
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By Bob Tourtellotte

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - 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.   Continued...

<p>Academy president Tom Sherak (C) sits with producers Bruce Cohen (R) and Don Mischer at a news conference regarding preparations for the 83rd Academy Awards in Hollywood, California February 25, 2011. The Oscars will be presented at the Kodak Theatre February 27, 2011. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson</p>