Champagne carpet and crisis team ready for Oscars celebration on Sunday

LOS ANGELES, March 12 (Reuters) – Hollywood stars will walk a champagne-colored carpet at the Oscars on Sunday when organizers aim to keep the spotlight on “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” “Top Gun: Maverick” and other nominated films that brought crowds back to cinemas.

In case of an unexpected twist, a crisis response team will be on hand at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. The group was formed after Will Smith smacked Chris Rock on stage last year, tarnishing the film industry’s most prestigious ceremony.

In this, the 95th Oscars, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences hopes to move past the slap and stage a glitzy show with new elements to attract younger viewers and boost sagging TV ratings.

The show will begin at 8 p.m. Eastern time (2400 GMT on Monday) and will be broadcast live on Walt Disney Co’s (DIS.N) ABC network. Comedian Jimmy Kimmel returns as host for the third time.

Producers said they plan to celebrate the moviegoing rebound of the past year, one that some feared might never happen when streaming took hold during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Several of 2022’s biggest hits at the multiplex landed in the best picture race, from “Top Gun” and “Everything Everywhere” to “Elvis” and “Avatar: The Way of Water.”

“Among our nominees are films that have not just hit the heart but also generated box office,” said producer Glenn Weiss. “We’re looking to really elevate that point.”

Last year, the television audience for the Academy Awards ranked as the second-lowest ever with 16.6 million viewers.

The big films on Sunday’s ballot, rather than some of the little-seen movies nominated in recent years, could help draw more viewers. The musical performances also may boost viewership.

Lady Gaga emerged as a last-minute addition, according to Hollywood publication Variety, which said she will sing her nominated “Top Gun” song “Hold My Hand.” Oscars producers said last week that Gaga was unable to make it because she was in the middle of filming a sequel to 2019 movie “Joker.”

Pop superstar Rihanna also will take the stage, performing “Lift Me Up” from “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.”

One novelty in the broadcast: QR codes will flash on TV screens ahead of commercial breaks with links to two- to three-minute videos about nominees. Organizers hope that sharing information about the contenders will give viewers people to root for and keep them watching.

To change up the look, organizers swapped out the traditional red carpet for the first time since 1961, opting instead for a champagne color. The stars’ entrance is covered by a dark tent that will give the appearance of nighttime glamour.

“Everything Everywhere All at Once,” an offbeat story about a Chinese American laundromat owner struggling to finish her taxes, comes in as the favorite to win best picture. The dimension-hopping kung fu adventure has swept the major Hollywood awards in the weeks leading up to the Oscars.

Star Michelle Yeoh faces off in the best actress category with Cate Blanchett, who played a devious orchestra conductor in “Tar.” Best actor may be a toss-up between “Elvis” star Austin Butler and Brendan Fraser, who played a severely obese man in “The Whale.”

Ke Huy Quan leads the supporting actor race for his role as Yeoh’s disgruntled husband in “Everything Everywhere.” A child star in a 1984 “Indiana Jones” movie, Quan quit acting for two decades because he saw little opportunity for Asian actors.

Angela Bassett is considered the favorite for supporting actress for her portrayal of Queen Ramonda in superhero movie “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.”

Winners are voted on by the roughly 10,000 actors, producers, directors and film craftspeople who make up the film academy.

All of the awards for film craftspeople will be handed out live. Last year, some were announced before the broadcast to try to keep the show to three hours. That caused a backlash from behind-the-scenes workers and did not result in a shorter show. The telecast ran three hours and 40 minutes.

Reporting by Lisa Richwine;
Editing by Mary Milliken, Howard Goller and Bill Berkrot

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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