Will Oscars Give Film Biz a Boost?

Sunday's Academy Awards ceremony is seen as a potential B-12 shot for a film industry that was slowed by a three-month writers' strike.

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

From NPR New, this is DAY TO DAY. If you suffered from celebrity withdrawal during the Hollywood writers strike, well, relief is at hand. This weekend, Sunday night, the 80th annual Academy Awards ceremony.

The Oscars are a bonanza, at least money-wise, for ABC. It's the second most-watched show on TV after the Super Bowl. MARKETPLACE's Amy Scott is here now. And Amy, I understand advertisers have, well, they've spent millions to pay for this show.

AMY SCOTT: Yeah, they have. People are talking about a lot of pent up demand for the show after the celebrity-free Golden Globes and People's Choice Awards, and a lot of that demand is coming from advertisers. They spent an average $1.8 million this year on a 30-second spot. As you said, it's the second most-watched show of the year and advertisers really want to reach that audience.

BRAND: How many people will be watching?

SCOTT: Well, it's really fluctuated in recent years. Last year it was about 40 million people. But 10 years ago, when "Titanic" swept the awards, 55 million people tuned in. And the audience does tend to be lower when the contenders for best picture weren't mega-hits at the box office, which was the case this year. "Juno" is the only film that grossed more than $100 million. So while that pent up demand left over from the strike might attract some viewers, many are expecting a smaller audience overall.

BRAND: What about for the movies that win? Is there a payout for them? Does it effect DVD sales?

SCOTT: Well it can be a big boost, even at the box office. Five years ago the musical "Chicago" won best picture. It added 136 theaters, sales went up 27 percent. But I spoke with Michael Speier, who's executive editor of Variety. He says most of this year's films have already had their box-office runs, they've settled on dates for their DVD releases. You know, there's certainly a bump if you can put that best picture sticker on the box. But when you're talking about violent movies like "There Will Be Blood" and "No Country for Old Men," Speier says this year's crop isn't quite as accessible.

Mr. MICHAEL SPEIER (Variety): If they win, they certainly have another month to play. And they could expand, absolutely. But it's not as if these are movies like "Chicago" that can just broadly appeal to the mass audience. So I don't see a big spike for any of them.

SCOTT: There has been a big spike, though, in the nominal values of the Oscars. Bloomberg News reports today that the price of each of those gold-plated statues reached $500 this year, which is a 25 percent increase thanks to the gold market. And of course winning one of those statues can greatly an individual's personal fortunes. Nicole Kidman's asking price reportedly doubled after she won best actress for "The Hours".

BRAND: All right. Thank you, Amy. That's Amy Scott of public radio's daily business show, MARKETPLACE.

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