Campaign designed to boost ratings

First-time Oscarcast producer Joe Roth may have never turned out a minute of television, but the film vet certainly knows the power of promotion.

Roth, in coordination with ABC and the Academy of Motion Pictures & Sciences, said Thursday he has lined up several unprecedented marketing campaigns for the Feb. 29 show at the Kodak Theater. He’s determined to improve Oscar ratings, which have fallen in recent years.

This weekend, a 60-second movie trailer promoting the 76th Annual Academy Awards ceremony will begin airing in theaters across the country. Also in the coming days, Blockbuster stores will begin a monthlong celebration of the Oscars. There will also be off-net ads running on cable — a first.

Roth and comedian Billy Crystal, who decided to once again host the Academy Awards after getting a call from Roth, put in an appearance at ABC’s portion of the winter Television Critics Assn. press tour in Hollywood. Appearance in and of itself was part of Roth’s promotional campaign and marked the first time in five or six years that the Alphabet hosted a TCA session on the Oscars.

“You want to win. And it’s no secret that network television has been sliding. And wouldn’t it be great to reverse the trend. And the only way I know how to do it is promotion,” said Roth, who runs Revolution Studios.

Both Roth and Crystal promised plenty of surprises and said they are ready to go, even with the shortened Oscar window. They also said Oscar nominee and “Hairspray” composer Mark Shaiman would be doing the music.

Roth’s vision for the Oscarcast? A big Broadway opening.

“It’s going to really feel like an old-fashioned, star-studded event. I think the star power is going to be great,” Roth said.

Roth joked that he has taken plenty of heat for his decision to produce the Academy Awards, particularly with the shortened window.

“I think I’m a pigeon no matter what. But I like the challenge. I never produced a minute of television in my life. Not sitcom, not a skit, not anything,” Roth said. “For me it’s fun. It’s a completely different thing. It’s a lot like directing. It’s very creative.”

Crystal said he is happy to be returning to the Oscarcast after a three-year hiatus. “I feel refreshed and anxious to do it,” Crystal said.

Roth said he will deliver the show at 3½ hours.

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