Oscars Tap Technology to Build Buzz

The Academy Awards is turning to social media and new formats in a a push to update the show.

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Jeff Bridges

Photo By John M. Heller/Getty Images

Sandra Bullock

Photo By Tyler Boye

LOS ANGELES — The Academy Awards will roll out more than the red carpet on Sunday.

Hollywood’s biggest night is turning to technology, social media and new formats for the 82nd annual Oscars to entice a bigger audience and generate more attention.

A year after turmoil in the worldwide economy resulted in slightly lower key partying and fewer gift suites, the frenzy is building as top fashion and jewelry brands jockey to dress A-list actresses and capture the buzz and publicity that can help boost sales.

Rachel Zoe, who is dressing presenters Cameron Diaz and Demi Moore, is among the stylists who plan to work until the 11th hour — and she is skipping the runway shows in Paris to do it.

“In an ideal scenario I would love to have things locked a week in advance, but normally the best gowns arrive in the last couple of days, and my job is to show the clients everything,” she said. “I found some great options in New York and Milan. It’s a nightmare that I am missing Paris, but for Oscars I often use couture.”

In the lead up to the extravaganza at the Kodak Theatre here, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is going high-tech for the red carpet as “Avatar” director James Cameron has pioneered use of 3-D. The Academy has unveiled its first mobile device application for the iPhone and iPod Touch. This gives users access to movie trailers and content, and encourages viewer interaction by allowing users to share their predictions on winners with friends via Facebook and Twitter and compare notes as the real-time results come in.

In addition, on Wednesday launched the Internet series “Oscars’ Designer Challenge: Behind the Dress,” which chronicles the competition among nine up-and-coming international designers — Fernanda Carneiro, Elda De La Rose, Ivy Higa, Phong Hong, Rania Salibi, Oday Shakar, Ari Sheuhmelian, Oliver Tolentino and Kelsy Zimba — to dress the person who will hand the statuettes to the celebrity presenters. The public voted online for the winning dress, which will be revealed on Sunday.

“The red carpet has become the biggest fashion show on Earth,” said Oscar fashion coordinator Patty Fox. “Now we’re giving the public a voice by letting them take part in the night.”

Fashion designers have long understood the build-up to the red carpet can be almost as great of a promotion as the photo op itself.

Fewer designers from New York and Europe have come to Hollywood to fit actresses and attend parties because of economic uncertainty. But even those who dress stars from afar with the help of Los Angeles-based teams, such as Giorgio Armani, said the Oscars show is integral to their branding efforts.

“From red-carpet reportage to historic box office receipts, there is such a positive flow of news coming out of the entertainment world today that I feel there is a tremendous focus on Hollywood as a spiritual life raft,” Armani said. “To me, awards season is a tonic…reminding us that, recession or not, life is full of ups and downs. Hollywood is an ‘up’ for me.”

The show, which will air live at 8 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on ABC, will be broadcast to 200 countries with an estimated population of 1 billion. Last year’s 36.9 million U.S. viewers represented a 13 percent increase compared with the record low in 2007 but still marked the third-lowest turnout in Oscars history. The largest audience was 55 million in 1998, the year of the megahit “Titanic.”


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