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Oscar winners no one expected: mothers everywhere

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Moreover, the awards broadcast itself is becoming more of a portal to online Oscars content, “with a decided focus on the youth audience,” he says. A number of youth-targeted strategies were evident this year, from the tag-team hosts Anne Hathaway and James Franco to the Web-based backstage access and premium content. (Viewers could pay $5 for up-close celebrity sighting images from 11 360-degree cameras posted throughout the event.)

As for the eagle-eyed moms, mainstream moviemaking could take some direction from them, perhaps prodding studio executives to finance a few more high-minded films, says Howard Suber, professor emeritus, Producers Program at UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television.

Mr. Suber, author of “The Power of Film,” sees in the films of the past year a growing split between what the 6,000 or so Academy voters want people to think they love and what they actually do in their day jobs. “They vote their conscience,” he says, “but they make films to pay mortgages and buy their fancy cars.”

Mainstream studios are abandoning ordinary characters, to whom everyday people can relate, in favor of cartoon figures that will play well with audiences around the world, says Mr. Suber. With only a few exceptions, he notes, the top-nominated films were all turned down by the major studios. He points to the money factor. A survey released last week by the Motion Picture Association of America shows the American film industry is making movies with more of an eye for foreign audiences than domestic. According to the survey, nearly two-thirds of the $31 billion global box office receipts come from foreign audiences. “Not all that long ago, that figure was more like fifty-fifty,” says Suber.

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