89th Annual Academy Awards - Red Carpet Roll Out
Credit: Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic

Serena Williams may not have anything to do with this year’s crop of Oscar nominees but the world-famous tennis player will have an important role in next Sunday’s Academy Awards.

As The New York Times reports, Williams — along with seven other people from “outside the world of entertainment” — will introduce the Best Picture nominees and talk about how the films impacted their lives. Williams has apparently been booked to wax on about A Star Is Born.

“Along with inclusion, which we definitely want to embrace, the big theme of the show is about movies connecting us — not in this theater but in a big, sweeping, cultural way,” Donna Gigliotti, the lead producer of the 91st Academy Awards, told the NYT. “There are so many things to balance. Some viewers want to see glamour. You have to pay attention to where there is humor and where there is music. When do we guess that people at home might get up to make popcorn in the kitchen, and what can we have on right after that to bring them back?”

The producers are under intense pressure to keep the show at three hours — something that Gigliotti admitted wasn’t going to happen, especially since the Academy of Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences agreed last week to keep four categories (cinematography, film editing, live action short, and makeup/hairstyling) in the telecast. The hope was to give those trophies away during the commercial breaks in an effort to save time, but Hollywood pushed back. That reversal will undoubtedly push the show later in the night, which could mean another low-rated show like last year: The March 2018 telecast averaged 26.5 million viewers, down from 2017’s 32 million.

Gigliotti told the NYT, however, that the show should move faster since it is proceeding without a host. Unlike what happened last year when Jimmy Kimmel emceed and gave an 18-minute monologue, the first award on Feb. 24 is expected to be given out near the six or seven-minute mark

Still, Gigliotti doesn’t expect the show to end at 11 p.m. on the East Coast when people start to go to bed. And the longer a show airs past the 11 p.m. hour, the lower the ratings go. The show will air live on both coasts, so at least it will end in prime time in Los Angeles.

In the meantime, ABC hopes the Oscars may add a little pixie dust to its new drama Whiskey Cavalier, which will air at 11:30 p.m. on the east coast after the Oscars and local news. The series starring Scandal’s Scott Foley will air from 10-11 p.m. on the west coast.

Just how bad is the drop in Oscar viewership over the years? Check out the levels over the last 20 years.

2018: 26.5 million (Best Picture winner: The Shape of Water)
2017: 32.9 million (Moonlight)
2016: 34.4 million (Spotlight)
2015: 37.2 million (Birdman)
2014: 43.7 million (12 Years a Slave)
2013: 40.3 million (Argo)
2012: 39.3 million (The Artist)
2011: 37.9 million (The King’s Speech)
2010: 41.7 million (The Hurt Locker)
2009: 36.3 million (Slumdog Millionaire)
2008: 32.0 million (No Country for Old Men)
2007: 40.1 million (The Departed)
2006: 38.9 million (Crash)
2005: 42.1 million (Million Dollar Baby)
2004: 43.5 million (The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King)
2003: 33.0 million (Chicago)
2002: 41.7 million (A Beautiful Mind)
2001: 42.9 million (Gladiator)
2000: 46.3 million (American Beauty)
1999: 45.6 million (Shakespeare in Love)
1998: 55.2 million (Titanic)

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