Sports-World Lessons for Hollywood
LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:
Some friendly wagers may be made on this weekend's Super Bowl, and those who are not avid fans of the Seattle Seahawks or the Pittsburgh Steelers, may skip watching the game and instead head to the movies.
Commentator Frank Deford says Hollywood could learn a thing or two from professional sports.
FRANK DEFORD (Sports commentator, Sports Illustrated): The two most popular things that people pay to go to see are games and movies. The celebratory apex of the sports and film year is upon us again, first with the Super Bowl this Sunday and then with the Academy Awards a month hence. But it's a much better time for sports, isn't it?
The Super Bowl is invariably the most watched TV show of the year, while the Oscars struggle to keep a much smaller audience. Not only that, but there's even talk now that someday soon, people won't even go out to movie theaters anymore. All films will go directly for DVD viewing at home.
Perhaps Hollywood can learn a thing or two from sports. Now, first of all, there's a huge difference between the way movie and sports success is tabulated. Sports publicizes the number of people who show up for games, attendance. And what do movies do? Every week you read about how much money films grossed, receipts. This is crazy. I don't want to be told how much Warner Brothers makes any more than I want to know how much George Steinbrenner makes.
The dopey Hollywood bean counters would encourage us to want to go to a movie more if we knew, say, that so many actual people, human beings, saw such and such a movie last week. Why, if I knew that millions of actual people were going to an Adam Sandler movie, I might even be tempted to go to that. No.
But it is revealing that whereas most sports tickets cost more than movie tickets, people complain more about the cost of movie tickets. Of course they do, they see how much movies gross, not how many people watched.
Also, movie theaters should have luxury boxes. This is supposed to be a democracy, but sports has proven that we prefer stratification when we assemble. The Academy Awards should be run like sports playoffs. Instead of having five nominees, say, for the Best Actor's category all sitting there on Oscar night, eight actresses would have been nominated yesterday. And in the next few weeks they would have been paired against each other. For example, Academy voters would have to choose Felicity Huffman or Dame Judy Dench, the winner to meet the winner of the Charlize Theron, Reese Witherspoon quarter final. Hello Hollywood, playoffs build interest.
The Super Bowl also attracts a larger audience with its halftime show, which appeals to many people who don't care for football. This Sunday, for example, the Rolling Stones will interrupt the football. The Academy Awards should use the same philosophy and have a halftime show with sports. What's sauce for the goose is, right?
For instance, this year after the semi-final best actor vote between Philip Seymour Hoffman and Heath Ledger is announced, halftime sports. We could, for example, have Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh, and Phil Mickelson playing a par three hole, or Shaquille O'Neal, Tim Duncan and Yeo Ming in a free throw shooting contest, right there on the Oscar stage.
Of course, this is not to say that the Super Bowl couldn't learn something from the Academy Awards. I think that Joan Rivers ought to be outside the Detroit stadium, discussing what clothes the players are wearing to the game. Why, here comes Ben Roethlisberger now, wearing a perfectly gorgeous brown car coat from TJ Max, with a lovely plaid lumberjack shirt from K-Mart, muddy brown Dockers, all set off by a dreamy black and gold baseball cap. Ben, Ben, over here on the red carpet. Ben, Ben.
WERTHEIMER: The comments of Frank Deford, senior contributing writer at Sports Illustrated. He joins us each Wednesday from member station WFHU in Fairfield, Connecticut. This is Morning Edition from NPR News, I'm Linda Wertheimer.