Though the striking Writers Guild of America was able to successfully put the kibosh on the 65th Annual Golden Globes this year (by threatening a picket line that the Screen Actors Guild said it would not cross), Academy Awards executive producer Gil Cates insists that the Oscars, which are slated for Feb. 24, won’t meet the same fate. “The show is going on,” Cates says. “I’m looking forward to it. We’re on schedule and, Hallelujah, I can’t wait until the 24th.”
Nevertheless, the uncertainty is making Madison Ave. antsy. “[The Oscar telecast] is something that advertisers count on as a launch pad, to introduce their products to a big audience,” says Bob Bernstein, chief media officer of Draftcb ad agency. “This is the biggest and most consistent TV property of the year behind the Super Bowl.” Last year, ABC, which has long broadcast the awards, sold 30-second Oscar spots for a reported $1.6 million each. This year, the network has pre-sold the spots at an even higher rate, according to an informed source, and the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. estimates that a Globes-like scale-back of the Oscars could cost Hollywood’s local economy $130 million.
At this point, it seems unlikely that ABC and the Academy will actually make the unprecedented decision to cancel the Oscar telecast for the first time in history. However, the Oscars could look wildly different if no one’s writing words for anyone to speak. “I don’t know how they’re going to do it,” says longtime Oscar writer Bruce Vilanch. “It would be weird.”
Of course, the striking WGA and AMPTP could come to a resolution before next month, making the whole discussion moot. Unfortunately, with no new talks scheduled and the war of words between the two sides growing increasingly heated, no one is holding their breath for that rosy outcome.
(Additional reporting by Mike Bruno.)