LOS ANGELES – When Oscar organizers unveiled their promotional campaign, "You're Invited," they weren't kidding -- at least where Web audiences are concerned.
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This year, more than ever, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has loaded up its Facebook page, Twitter account and website with ways people can watch the world's top film awards and all the festivities that take place around it.
The goal, Academy members say, is to make the glitzy Hollywood telecast feel more inclusive of everyday moviegoers and capture the attention of younger fans with one hand on their cellphone and the other on a laptop computer.
"We know that, more and more, people watching television are also engaging with some other device. We want that second device to have related, complementary content on it," said Ric Robertson, executive administrator at the Academy and the man behind the Oscar show's social media outreach.
"The idea is to pull back the curtain, and let viewers get a real sense of what Oscar night is," said Robertson.
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It is no secret that in recent years, viewership has been eroding for the Oscars telecast, which is annually the second most popular TV show in the United States, as well as movies, in general. Younger audiences are finding more ways to entertain themselves -- social networking, video games, texting, etc. -- than going to movies.
The total number of tickets sold in U.S. and Canadian theaters fell 5 percent in 2010 to 1.34 billion. Box office revenues were flat compared to 2009 at $10.6 billion, and average movie ticket prices rose to $7.89 from $7.50
Where the Oscar telecast is concerned, last year's show was the most-watched in five years with just under 42 million viewers, but a large part of that was due to the popularity of best film nominee "Avatar," the biggest box office hit ever.
The telecast generally sees viewership increase when popular movies are up for awards. The high-water mark was 1998 when 57 million people tuned in to watch smash hit "Titanic" win best film. The low was 2008 when about 32 million tuned in for a victory by "No Country for Old Men."
OSCAR ON THE WEB
So, in an effort to put more eyes on Hollywood's A-list movie stars, the Academy has adopted an aggressive approach to showing scenes of stars on the red carpet, backstage after the TV cameras are no longer following them, and even offering a glimpse of their personal lives with Oscar's tweeting moms.
On Twitter, not only will the Academy's website be active (@TheAcademy) and various nominees be tweeting, but James Franco's mom (@Francosmom) and grandmom (@Grandmamitz), "The Fighter" director David O. Russell (@Orussellsmom) "Toy Story 3" director Lee Unkrich's mother (@EmilieUnkrich) and others, are expected to tweet.
On Facebook, the Academy will be posting photos of stars at the awards or unexpected events that happen off camera, as well as what is upcoming on the telecast.
For fans wanting to watch just about everything Oscar, the show's website Oscar.com is selling an "All Access Pass" where people can watch live Web streaming of what is taking place from 24 cameras along the red carpet, backstage, in the press rooms and at the Governors Ball dinner after the show.
Finally, there is even an Oscars viewing app that can be downloaded for iPads and iPhone users.
"We have totally rebooted Oscar.com with these user selected video streams," Robertson said. "We've just blown it up completely."