The 88th annual Academy Awards ceremony was rather unique, even for Hollywood. It began covered in a negative cloud over allegations of racial discrimination in the nominations, a cloud that remained through comedian Chris Rock's presenting of the show.
Yet, even with this, the show was expected to bring in record advertising revenues for the ABC TV network, part of the Walt Disney entertainment conglomerate. You see, after all the speeches, protests and glam parties, this ever growing back slapping ceremony isn't about art, aesthetics or diversity. It's all about making money.
The average cost of a 30-second spot in this year's three-hour-plus telecast to be $1.9 million to $2 million, a double-digit bump versus last year and an all-time record, per Kantar Media figures. In the end, the total is expected to reach $114 million.
The Oscar telecast actually began at 2 p.m.. on a sunny 25 degree winter's day with a red carpet show that ran until 5:30 when the awards ceremony itself began and didn't end until 9 p.m. And that climaxed with the rarity of the film with the best director Alejandro Inarritu and actor Leonardo Di Caprio, The Revenant not also winning best picture, which went to the newspaper expose drama Spotlight.
But it was Rock who set the tone of the evening with a long opening monologue taking the piss out of the alleged racist Hollywood establishment and the all white nominations. The trouble with this was it seemed as a long winge about no Black nominees, never mentioning the lack of Hispanic nominees, which represent a far larger American demographic.
This was Rock's second outing as Oscar presenter and he had the packed audience at the Dolby Theatre in stitches most of the time. But, the reality was he set the tone for a negative show by denigrating rather than complimenting the fine selection of nominees. The Hollywood crowd may have been amused, but in days to come the views of the US and worldwide audience may have a less generous view.
It's one thing to make a point about social inequality, but another to cast a shadow of what was supposed to be a joyous event. The ceremony featured Rock earlier polling African American cinema patrons about some of the nominated films, finding they had seen none of them.
Again, its about money. Hollywood now makes as much or money from the international market than from domestic sales. As with female actors, who have been protesting about their pay gap with men, its all about big box office draw. When Black actors perform in well received major films their stock will go up, such as the case of John Boyega of the Star Wars record breaker.
The whole question of measuring diversity against ticket sales can be very complicated. Basically, African Americans represent 13 percent of the US population, while Hispanics now represent around 24 percent. The White audience remains the largest and most affluent in the nation. On the other hand, the US film industry more and more is courting the Asian market and seeking Chinese money to fund films.
Yet it wasn't all negativity. No one could be more happy than film maker George Miller. His re-boot of the post-apocalyptic chase film, Mad Max: Fury Road was the biggest winner with six awards in technical categories for editing, makeup, production design, sound editing, sound mixing and costume design.