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Writers' Strike Adds Drama to Oscar Nominations


The American motion picture industry has announced this year's nominations for best picture and other Academy Awards. And the Academy for Film Arts and Sciences says the ceremony will go on as usual even if an ongoing writers' strike puts a wrench in the works. VOA's Ruth Reader reports on the nominees and the effect of the strike on the ceremony next month.

Two films tied for the most Oscar nominations, and one of them -- "There Will Be Blood" -- is not only up for the best picture award and direction, but also best actor with Daniel Day-Lewis as its star. Still, "No Country for Old Men" also has eight nominations, including for best picture and direction.

Another best picture nominee -- "Atonement" -- has seven nominations, as does "Michael Clayton," including best direction and best actor, with George Clooney in the lead role. No film dominates the nominations and eager movie buffs will just have to wait until the big night for answers.

That is, if there is a big night. The Writers Guild is still on strike and the walkout has already stolen much of the glitz from two other Hollywood awards shows -- the People's Choice Awards and the Golden Globes. And while television viewers miss the opportunity to watch their favorite stars wearing inspiring fashions, the big loser is the advertising industry.

This year the Golden Globes, pared down to a glamourless newscast, drew in roughly a quarter of the viewers it did last year. Advertising Age's TV Editor, Brian Steinberg, says with advancements in technology advertisers cannot afford to lose their audience. "Advertisers last year spent about $28 million on Golden Globes. So it's a good chunk of change, not a huge amount for networks' bottom line by any means, but you know you don't want to lose that kind of money especially at a time when people are using DVRs to skip past advertising."

NBC television network lost an estimated 10 to 15 million dollars in advertising after the show was reformatted to accommodate strikers.

Steinberg says that advertisers rely on big events like the Oscars to captivate large audiences for new product launches and big brand campaigns. Without them, options for advertising to large audiences are few. "It's tougher to get the ratings points you need if you have fewer people watching TV, so people who are marketers are worried as well. They turn to TV, and they long have, for millions of people in one fell swoop -- Super Bowl, Oscars, that kind of thing, and the events that get them those things are being taken away."

One major market to lose advertising opportunity is fashion. Many designers cash in on free advertising by loaning out dresses to stars for such celebrity-driven events. Without the red carpet, designers, especially smaller independent designers, lose a major advertising venue.

And for the Oscars, the stakes are raised. ABC charges $1.6 million per 30-second television spot. Last year advertisers spent $80 million for advertising during the Oscars -- more than double the amount spent on the Golden Globes. But, if the strike continues, the Oscars could suffer the same fate as the Golden Globes.

Steinberg says the advertising industry was having problems with television before the writers' strike. "Before the strike came along there had already been concern of erosion of ratings, of people watching TV in other places like the Web, and iTunes aren't measured well for advertisers. There are concerns about people time shifting with DVRs and passing through ads and not watching them. This is one more chink in the armor of the TV business."

For now, the Academy of Film Arts and Sciences says the show will go on as planned. Already the Writers Guild of America has denied the Academy's request for show clips from the previous year. The guild also is not allowing Jon Stewart to cross picket lines to write or host the show. Talks between the writers and the studios are planned to resume this week.

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