Will Packer has been named Producer of the 94th Annual Academy Awards, set for March 27.
This will be the first Oscar show to be produced by Packer, a prolific producer of numerous films and TV projects including Straight Outta Compton, Ride Along, Girls Trip, the Think Like a Man films and the television remake of Roots, for which he received an Emmy nomination. But his credits do not include a lot of live TV projects, so taking on the Oscars will be a relatively new experience. His wide-ranging credits in comedy give hope that he also will be creating a fun Academy Awards.
The Academy clearly is looking for fresh ideas and new directions after the pandemic-affected, critically derided and record-low-rated 2021 telecast produced by the trio of Steven Soderbergh, Stacey Sher and Jesse Collins. Of course the ratings collapse of that show, which was delayed to April 25, was not entirely due to the producing team but was deeply affected by a depressed lineup of films and ability to even pull off a live show on the usual scale of Oscar nights. Still, some of their decisions including sparse use of clips from little-seen nominees, and the disastrous idea of presenting Best Picture before the lead acting awards were not well-received (the producers gambled that the late Chadwick Boseman would win for Actor, but when the absent Anthony Hopkins’ name was in the envelope instead, it resulted in an anti-climactic and embarrassing finish).
The Academy and broadcast partner ABC, Covid permitting, hope to get back to normal in terms of producing a telecast in front of a full audience back at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood — far away from the much-smaller Union Station setup where the 93rd Oscars took place just a few months ago. Ratings plunged 56% to 10.4 million viewers, down from pre-pandemic 23.6 million for the 92nd Oscars. The recent Emmy Awards, however, still wary of problems presented by Covid restrictions, resorted to a scaled-down, banquet-style ceremony in a tent on top of the L.A. Live parking garage for just nominees and their guests. Emmy ratings increased 16% from an all-time low the previous year, so things might be slowly improving on the awards show front. AMPAS certainly hopes so and, with a new team at the helm, is only looking forward.
“Will is a powerhouse producer who has enjoyed success across all movie genres!” Academy President David Rubin and CEO Dawn Hudson said in a statement. “He’s already bringing a boundless energy and a focus on innovation to this year’s Oscars, to entertain the widest spectrum of fans. Many wonderful surprises ahead.”
Said Packer: “The power, the beauty, the romance of the imagery in movies has always attracted me. I’m fully embracing the challenge of bringing an ode to one of the most iconic mediums in the world to life. What an honor.”
Added Craig Erwich, president of Hulu Originals and ABC Entertainment: “There is no one better than Will Packer to celebrate our collective love for cinema. Will is a world-class hitmaker and the ideal producer to capture the prestige of the Oscars and deliver a powerful and moving event.”
Packer has produced or executive produced a wide range of movies that also include The Photograph, Little, What Men Want, Night School, Breaking In, No Good Deed, Takers, Obsessed and Stomp The Yard. His television credits include That Girl Lay Lay, Blackballed, Ambitions, Bigger, Being Mary Jane, and Uncle Buck. He is the founder and CEO of film production company Will Packer Productions and Will Packer Media, a television, digital and branded content company.
Shayla Cowan, chief of staff of Will Packer Productions and Will Packer Media, will serve as co-producer alongside Packer. Cowan manages and oversees all the operational activities of both companies, advises on marketing, communications and business strategies, and provides support on the development and production of the company’s films, television and digital programming.
No word yet on who, if anyone, will host the show, but after three hostless Oscar ceremonies, it might be a good idea to see a familiar face as MC again.
The 94th Oscars will be held on Sunday, March 27, at the Dolby Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center in Hollywood and will be televised live on ABC and in more than 200 territories worldwide.
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