Oscar promo spending eases

By Robert Marich
   Feb. 13, 2009 -- The Oscar publicity machine is sputtering due to recession, which is making the hoopla around this year’s Academy Awards restrained, according to an Associated Press story.
   “Of course, the show must go on,” notes the article by AP movie writer Christy Lemire. “The Academy Awards bring $130 million into Los Angeles, and city economists expect that to be true this year, too. But it’s in the ancillary activity -- parties, studios’ campaigns for Oscar votes, glossy ads in trade publications -- where less money is being thrown around.”
   According to the article, contraction in the indie sector—such as the closure of Picturehouse and Warner Independent – has reduced distributors and competitive pressure. Major studios are part of media conglomerates whose other operations – particularly print media and broadcast TV – are suffering, so the majors are forced into cost cutting, despite relatively good financial results in the movie business.
   Oscar awards parties in Los Angeles are less lavish, with the AP article saying invitee lists are shorter and events are held in restaurants. Renting a restaurant is cheaper than building lavish party tents as in past years when the money spigot flowed.
   The article puts Oscar awards campaigns at $10 million or more for single pictures, though Marketing to Moviegoers suggests they top out in the low single digit millions of dollars per title.
   Another sign of weak Oscar environment is that the sale of movie commercials by ABC Television for inclusion in the Oscar telecast Feb. 22 are going poorly. Though not mentioned in the AP story, ad rates are around $1.4 million per spot, versus $1.8 million that ABC hoped for before the economy tanked. So far, only Paramount’s The Soloist is known to have an Oscar telecast ad. With ad sales hurting, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences allowed ABC to sell movie ads, which had been banned in the Oscar telecast for decades.
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