Paramount's 'The Soloist' Buys Into ABC's Oscar Show

One of the first film commercials for ABC's "Academy Awards" broadcast will come from Paramount Pictures' "The Soloist," according to executives close to the company.

The upscale, emotional film about a homeless schizophrenic man who is also a talented violinist seems like the perfect fit for the Oscars' mostly older female audience. Media executives say the pricing for a 30-second commercial in the show is now $1.4 million--lower than the initial $1.8 million ABC was asking from TV advertisers before the economy took a turn for the worse in the fourth quarter last year.

The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences lifted the long-rooted ban on movie commercials this year with the hope that studios would clamor to buy up what was the ultimate consumer/viewer combination-- people who love films watching the highest-profile TV film award show.

While movie studios are naturally enamored, movie media executives note there are typically few big theatrical releases that target mostly an upscale women audience in the spring. "The Soloist" is scheduled to for an April 24 release.



Big wide-release movies targeting many diverse demographic groups typically buy up the Super Bowl--including many big summer tentpole movies. But many of those movies target young males who show up in droves to watch football--but don't typically watch the Oscars broadcast.

Given this reality, and the current state of the TV advertising economy, studio media executives said ABC has had a difficult time in selling the Oscars, thus the discounting of ad time. Last year, one of the Oscars' longtime major sponsors--General Motors--said it wasn't buying the event in 2009.

Sony, MGM and Lionsgate won't buy spots in the 2009 telecast, sources said. But other major studios--Warner Bros., Universal Pictures, and Walt Disney--still appear to be likely buyers. Advertising Age reported that Disney/Pixar has bought a spot for the upcoming animated film "Up."

Although movies are now allowed to buy commercials in shows, there are a host of restrictions to prevent studios from appearing to capitalize on the award proceedings. For instance, studios can only advertise a movie that is released after the Oscar broadcast; no commercial can be for a sequel/prequel of a movie. Studios are only allowed to advertise one film and one spot in the broadcast.

"The Soloist" is based on the true story of a Los Angeles Times columnist (played by Robert Downey Jr.) who befriends a homeless musician played by Jamie Foxx.

An ABC spokeswoman had no comment. A Paramount spokesperson would not confirm the studio's plans. The Oscars will air on ABC on Feb. 22.

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