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The Oscars face a decided time to get an audience

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By Lisa Richwine

LOS ANGELES, March 24 (Reuters) – Three female comedians will share hosting roles, fans will choose two awards and some acceptance speeches will be recorded before the live broadcast.

So it’s part of the plan to transform this year’s Academy Awards telecast, which faces a pivotal test on Sunday as it tries to recover from last year’s poor ratings.

After being without a presenter since 2019, the next edition of the Oscars has three: comedians Amy Schumer, Regina Hall and Wanda Sykes. It is the first time that three women will finish the ceremony, each bringing her own sense of humor.

“We already started with three vaginas,” Hall said in an interview. “I think three women on stage already gets it going (the show), so I think we’re off to a pretty good start.”

“Trainwreck” star Schumer has described her style as “evil” and has said she is willing to “have no filter” with the performers at the ceremony. “That’s what we’re all here for, so we can tear each other apart,” she joked in a video posted by ABC.

At the same time, producer Will Packer promises that the 94th Academy Awards will celebrate films around the slogan “Movie lovers unite.” Some hosts, like skateboarder Tony Hawk and rapper Sean Combs, hail from outside the movie world, a sign that the show isn’t just for moviegoers.

In its heyday, the Academy Awards were a must-see for television and served as a dazzling advertisement for Hollywood. More than 55 million American viewers tuned in when the hit “Titanic” swept through 1998.

Last year, when the COVID-19 pandemic forced organizers to move the ceremony to a train station with limited attendance and no musical performances, the audience dropped to 10.4 million on ABC, which has the rights to televise the show until 2028.

And while audience size is shrinking, the age of viewers watching traditional TV, including the Oscars, is rising, said media consultant Brad Adgate.

“Younger viewers aren’t staying home to watch this,” Adgate said. “I think the genre has gotten old fashioned, like beauty pageants used to be a big event on television. It’s falling into that category.”

The producers claim that the event does not exceed three hours. Some years it has been longer than four.

To help maintain that time limit, the winners of eight awards, including sound and production design, were announced at the Dolby Theater just before the telecast. Edited recordings of his speeches will be played during the broadcast.

(Reporting by Lisa Richwine in Los Angeles; additional reporting by Alicia Powell in New York; and Rollo Ross in Los Angeles; Spanish editing by Benjamín Mejías Valencia)

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