ABC has struggled to sell commercials for tonight’s Oscars even though it had a perfect new group of advertisers: the movie studios, who were finally allowed to advertise during the big show this year and were expected to unleash a wave of trailers at an ideal audience.
So why have only Paramount and Disney stepped up and the remaining four major movie studios (Sony, Universal, Fox, and Warner Bros.) decided to sit the show out? None of them would talk to us on the record, but industry sources familiar said it was basically a cost-benefit analysis: None of the Hollywood giants have Oscar-friendly films opening now that are worth spending northwards of $1 million on an ad. Indeed, movies promoted during the Oscars, which tends to have a largely female, older viewership, should appeal to this audience. And while there aren’t many movies like that coming up, there are a few that we think could’ve benefitted from Oscar exposure.
But we get the money thing. A $1.4 million -$1.7 million ticket for an ad is a lot, and the studios aren’t in a position to be throwing around a lot of money these days. Fox, which also chose not to advertise during the Super Bowl, had a disappointing year at the box-office last year, Slumdog Millionaire notwithstanding. And when the studio recently reported its most recent quarterly earnings, film revenue for the quarter was down a shocking 72% year-to-year.
So, we’ll help out the ailing Hollywood conglomerates pick out the films they should be promoting (for free, even!); just like the Oscars is doing, incidentally, via the clips from upcoming films that the show’s planning to air at the end of the telecast.
Sony: It doesn’t really have anything on its schedule this spring, but August release Julie & Julia, starring nominees Amy Adams and Meryl Streep, seems like such a perfect fit that the LA Times‘ Patrick Goldstein suggested it when he reported on the news of the Oscars removing its movie ad ban. Even Sony’s Katherine Heigl/Gerard Butler romantic comedy, The Ugly Truth, pushed back to July from April, seems like it might work with the show’s female audience. A source close to the situation said that The Ugly Truth was too far down on the release schedule to merit an Oscar ad, but there’s not much more of a time gap between now and July than there is between the first week of February and late June, when movies advertised during the Super Bowl hit theatres.
Universal: Universal’s decision not to advertise is perhaps the most baffling, because the studio has two films that would appeal to Oscar viewers set to open over the next two months, both written by former nominee, Michael Clayton scribe Tony Gilroy:
Duplicity stars Oscar winner Julia Roberts and former nominees Clive Owen and Tom Wilkinson.
And the awesome-looking State of Play (adapted from the knockout BBC’s mini-series) stars Oscar winners Russell Crowe, Ben Affleck and Helen Mirren.
Fox: 20th Century Fox doesn’t really have an Oscar movie on its slate for the next few months, but its uber-successful indie division Fox Searchlight has two Oscar audience-friendly films, 500 Days of Summer and My Life in Ruins, both slated for summer releases. The lower budgets of such pics probably don’t justify advertising during the Oscars, but that’s what we’re here for.
Warner Bros.: Ok, we give. Warner Bros. really has nothing that would seem to appeal to the Oscars’ older, mostly female audience except for its late June pic, My Sister’s Keeper, which doesn’t yet have a trailer. But a source close to Warner Bros. speculated that the studio’s decision to bow out of the Oscars may have been financial. Warner also didn’t advertise during the Super Bowl. Guess Jeff Bewkes wants to spread that $1 billion in Dark Knight money around somewhere else.