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What to Expect from Oscar Night: Class, 23 Categories, and No Sofas

You heard it here first: this year's Oscar producers, Glenn Weiss and Ricky Kirshner, will keep the Dolby audience in their seats.

HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 08: Jimmy Kimmel speaks during the 95th Oscars Arrivals Carpet Roll Out at Ovation Hollywood on March 08, 2023 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images)

Jimmy Kimmel speaks during the 95th Oscars Arrivals Carpet Roll Out at Ovation Hollywood on March 08, 2023

Getty Images

This one has to be better, right? It will be the first Oscars under Academy CEO Bill Kramer, who took the role in July 2022 after running the Academy Museum. After last year’s incendiary ceremony produced by Will Packer, which featured an ungainly trio of hosts (Amy Schumer , Wanda Sykes, and Regina Hall), capped by the slap, Kramer had a new mantra: Make the show classy, fun, and celebratory of the movies. And sure enough, that’s exactly what the producers Glenn Weiss and Ricky Kirshner say, too.

Here’s the thing: For the first time since the era of Gil Cates, who produced the Academy Awards 14 times between 1990 and 2008 with hosts Billy Crystal, Whoopi Goldberg, David Letterman, Steve Martin, Chris Rock, and Jon Stewart, we have an Oscar producer with extensive Oscar telecast experience.

Three-time Primetime Emmy winner Weiss (the guy who proposed to his wife live on the Emmys) directed the show seven times; this will be his eighth. Last time he co-produced was the 2018 Oscars, arguably one of the better shows in recent memory: he worked with film producer Donna Gigliotti. Kirshner, who has executive produced multiple Tony Awards, will make his Oscar producing debut.

Between Cates and now, we had rookies. Occasionally producers repeat, but more often than not they’re forced to reinvent the wheel each time. Mistakes are inevitable, especially because film producers and directors aren’t trained in creating a television award show. Here’s how the Weiss/Kirshner producing team will upgrade this year’s Oscars.

1. Make it a TV show. “We get to be in charge, my partner Ricky and I,” said Weiss on a Zoom call.  “It has been an interesting journey over the years with different folks coming in. It’s a real pleasure to take Ricky and the folks that we bring to the table with a television background to create this television show. Cates had a tremendous film background, but he thought like [someone] in television, the kind of show he was creating, which was great. He definitely was a master at this kind of thing.”

2. Go classy. “First of all, it’s the Oscars,” said Kirshner. “So you have to be classy, right? This is in not to cast aspersions on other work. It’s not a rock-and-roll show.”

Glenn Weiss Ricky Kirshner

Glenn Weiss and Ricky Kirshner of White Cherry Entertainment will produce the 95th Oscars.Image Group LA

Image Group LA

3. Lean into nominated blockbusters. “Are we populist?” said Kirshner. “Yes. Because this year, you have movies that a lot of people have seen. You have blockbusters. You have movies that are in the zeitgeist with ‘Everything Everywhere All at Once.’  People are talking about these movies.”

The producers don’t mind sharing a little Hollywood history along the way. “There are moments where we feel like it’s important for the home viewer to understand the category they’re watching. We will use some knowledge we’ve gained from the Academy Museum to educate a little — not in a boring way.”

4. Let host Jimmy Kimmel play the room.  “We truly believe that keeping the audience engaged inside the theater translates to the people watching on television,” said Kirshner. “You don’t want to come back from a commercial and see people standing around as if they’re bored. So we keep them engaged inside the theater, even when we’re in a commercial break.” (He promises that the show will be “very immersive.”)

Kirshner places a lot of faith in Kimmel’s skills — and, in his ability to see the role of host as a conduit, not as a star. “As we’ve learned from doing many award shows, he understands that the night’s about movies, the night’s about the nominees, the night’s not always about himself,” Kirshner said. “Even though he’s the host, he is hosting the people that are nominated, hosting the people that are watching. And that’s important in award shows. Sometimes people get a little too much about themselves. The night’s about the movies, and we’re there to honor the movies and the people that make movies.”

Three Oscar writers (veterans Dave Boone and Agathe Panaretos and newbie Nefetari Spencer) collaborate with Kimmel’s team led by Molly McNearney, Kimmel’s wife who also serves as executive producer and head co-writer. They will have to figure out how to handle The Slap and Chris Rock’s recent reactions to it.

“We as a whole have just been focusing forward,” said Weiss. “We’re not trying to relive much of that stuff. Jimmy, who has been so engaged, so wonderful, is interested in making a fun show. We’re not necessarily looking for anything that’s looking backward or mean-spirited. He’s his usual [self] — like in his promo — self deprecating, funny, but not at the expense of anybody.”

5. Play with the theater space. “The scenic for this show will encompass more than just the stage,” said Kirshner. “It will feel very immersive, like some film experiences.”

“And then outside the theater, the whole exterior has been reimagined by a whole different team bringing a different aesthetic to it,” added Weiss. “So we look forward to that being an exciting way for both arrivals and press interviews plus our pre-show.”

6. Keep the Dolby audience in their seats. No more sofas, tables, or easy access to the stage. “The Dolby will be more of a traditional theater layout,” said Weiss.

7. Rely on the Academy’s recently formed “Crisis Team” for any major snafus. Academy CEO Kramer has created a crisis team to take over should anything go wrong. No backstage mayhem like last year, which saw publicists running between the Academy leaders and producer Packer, who made the call that Smith be allowed to keep his seat and accept his Oscar.

“We have produced the Democratic Convention, the inaugural balls for the Bidens and the Obamas,” said Weiss. “When we do events like that, the Secret Service handles a lot of details that we’re just not in the mix on because we’re here to create an entertainment show. Same analogy. We’re here to put a show on the air and keep it moving. We’re not involved in that part.”

Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper perform "Shallow" at 91st Oscars

Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper perform “Shallow” at 91st Oscars


8. Make the most of the music. So far four out of the five Oscar-nominated songs will be performed on the Oscarcast, including performers David Byrne, Stephanie Hsu, and the trio Son Lux (“This Is a Life” from “Everything Everywhere All at Once”) and Super Bowl star Rihanna (“Lift Me Up,” from “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”). One can only assume Best Song Oscar winner Lady Gaga (“Shallow”) will be announced shortly, for her “Top Gun: Maverick” song “Hold My Hand.”

“There are some great musical numbers,” said Kirshner. “They lend themselves visually more than some other songs over the years have. There’s some great visual moments during these performances.”

As for the dance number “Naatu Naatu” from Indian musical blockbuster “RRR,” the original singers of the song (Rahul Sipliguni and Kaala Bhairava) will perform the song with professional dancers. Will the superstars of the movie, N. T. Rama Rao Jr. and Ram Charan, appear on the stage in their tuxedos? “It is a very complicated dance and something that has captured the world’s attention,” said Weiss, “which is kind of cool for a dance from a movie. That said, we’re going to represent it as best as we can working with the creatives from the movie in what we’re putting together. There’s a lot of room for things to come.”

9. Honor every single one of the 23 categories on the show live. “Every category that is being broadcast on the show — every category, basically — is going to be represented very nicely on television,” said Weiss. “And potentially online as well. The whole purpose is to celebrate the movies, and everybody in every craft who was nominated. We feel strongly that throughout the night, you’re going to see a big tip-of-the-hat appreciation. I think we’ve done a great celebration of everything about the movie, not just the clip that you see in a commercial.”

10. Keep In Memoriam clean and simple. Lenny Kravitz will do the musical accompaniment to the In Memoriam section, which last year was an over-cluttered mess. “We’re going to pretty much go back to basics and honor the people that we’ve lost,” said Kirshner, “which is what that segment should be focused on.”

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