Gilbert Cates is returning one more time to produce next year’s 65th Academy Awards presentation, marking the producer-director’s fourth consecutive go-round as the show’s producer.

“To paraphrase Orson Welles, producing the Academy Award show is the best electric train set a kid can have,” Cates said yesterday at a morning press conference in the lobby of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences’ Beverly Hills headquarters. “The Oscar Show is really the greatest show on Earth and I enjoy being the ringmaster of it.”

The three previous Oscar telecasts produced by Cates have garnered 23 Emmy nominations and seven Emmy Awards.

Although Cates, a member of the Academy’s Board of Governors for nine years representing the Directors branch, has repeatedly said he wouldn’t re-enlist for another tour of duty, he said that he reconsidered after discussions with Academy prez Robert Rehme.

“I thought I was done last year,” Cates said, “but Bob Rehme became president of the Academy and he called me and asked me to do it one more year, so I decided to do it again. It didn’t require any convincing when Bob asked me to do it.”

Cates also announced that the theme of next year’s show, to be held March 29, will be women and the movies.

Ironically, next year’s recognition of women in the movies comes on the heels of this year’s uproar when Barbra Streisand was not nominated as director of “The Prince of Tides,” which caused many to accuse the Academy of sexism.

“This had nothing to do with the uproar over Barbra Streisand not being nominated,” Cates said. “It has to do with the fact that there is great interest in women this year. This is the year of the woman. In terms of motion pictures, there’s an extraordinary participation in terms of women in film.”

Cates said in searching for a theme for each year’s shows, he looks for a subject that will be entertaining for the three-hour show.

“When I look at the amount of material available to us in developing a show theme, you really have to think of the film packages that you’re going to assemble,” he said. “How it impacts on the presenters, on the hosts and the musical numbers. You want to make sure the theme is thick enough to support that and I can’t think of a theme as thick with possibility as women in the movies.”

Asked whether Billy Crystal would be returning as the show’s host, Cates said , “We don’t know, yet, although we would love to have him.” Crystal has been quoted as saying he wouldn’t return unless Cates would produce the show again and Cates said the same thing about Crystal.

As for other key personnel, Cates said Jeff Margolis, who directed this year’s show, probably will be back.

“I’ve spoken to him and I told him that when I officially agree to do it, I will ask him,” Cates said.

As for changes he’d like to make to next year’s show, Cates said, “I would like it to be a little shorter. It would be great to be closer to three hours than it has been.”

Cates also said that he hopes next year’s show doesn’t have the security problems that the last two shows have had, referring to this year’s gay rights protests and the heavy security that was added last year during the Persian Gulf War.

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