January 23, 2009 / 1:04 AM / 9 years ago

Oscar nominations come in tough week for Hollywood

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Hollywood tightened its belt a little more on Thursday even as it announced nominations for the Oscars, the movie industry’s most glitzy and prestigious awards.

While accolades poured in for Oscar contenders like Walt Disney Co’s robot love story “WALL-E,” the entertainment company said it was combining two television divisions, ABC Entertainment and ABC Studios, to “address the changing realities of the entertainment landscape.”

The company said no immediate job losses would result from combining the ABC divisions, but a spokesman said “everything is on the table,” including potential job cuts.

A day earlier, Disney sent voluntary buyout offers to 600 theme park executives.

Disney’s actions followed 800 job cuts this week at Time Warner Inc’s Warner Bros Entertainment, which scored 21 nominations on Thursday, including 13 for leading Oscar contender “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” and eight for “The Dark Knight.”

The entertainment industry is facing challenges from declining DVD sales and box office attendance and the digital transformation of broadcast television.

Yearly box office ticket sales fell 0.4 percent in 2008 to $9.6 billion from $9.7 billion, while the number of tickets sold fell 4.8 percent, according to industry tracker Box Office Mojo.

Harold Vogel, an analyst with Vogel Capital Management, said the long-held view that entertainment is recession-proof no longer holds true.

“These moves are about cost savings and changes in industry dynamics. People love to go to the movies, but not in the same number as when times are good,” Vogel said.

Even an Oscar nomination does not always deliver on studio hopes for a box office boost, he said.

“The Oscars are glamorous and a good diversion. People need some fun and an escape from the gloom, but even an Oscar doesn’t necessarily translate into ticket sales,” Vogel said.

Late last year, there were staff reductions at other major media companies like General Electric Co’s NBC Universal and Viacom. Viacom owns Paramount, which scored 23 Oscar nominations.

Warner Bros produced “Slumdog Millionaire,” which earned 10 nominations, but the credit went to News Corp’s Fox Searchlight Pictures, which distributed the acclaimed drama.

News Corp has not announced any sweeping job cuts at Fox Searchlight or Twentieth Century Fox, but has indicated that it is watching costs by cutting down on travel, entertainment and other expenses.

Sony Corp, Sony Pictures’ parent company, has said it would cut 8,000 jobs, chiefly from its electronics division, and on Thursday said it would post a record $2.9 billion annual operating loss.

Sources familiar with Sony Pictures said they expect more belt tightening at the company.

Reporting by Sue Zeidler; Editing by Toni Reinhold

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