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Having the Time of Their Lives

Winners' speeches can run long, but there's more to blame for the longer ceremonies.


Last year's Oscar telecast attracted 87 million viewers in the U.S., making it the most viewed Academy Awards in history. But the show also clocked in at a sloggy 3 hours and 45 minutes, a full 31 minutes longer than the best picture winner, "Titanic."

Believe it or not, the Oscars were even longer in the early days of the Academy Awards, when the evening's festivities began with dinner. Back in 1938, the awards ceremony didn't even begin until 10:30 p.m. Presenter Cecil B. DeMille's opening remarks supposedly ran 35 minutes. The evening finally came to a conclusion around 2 a.m.

Though Academy Awards producer Gil Cates always tells the prospective winners to keep their speeches to a 30-second maximum, not everyone does. Remember Cuba Gooding Jr.'s infectious acceptance two years ago? As the music swelled cuing the actor to end his speech, Gooding kept shouting his thanks over the orchestra. But he had nothing on Greer Garson; at the 1943 ceremony, the best actress winner for "Mrs. Miniver" spent 5 1/2 minutes thanking everybody and their brother.

Despite careful planning and rehearsals, the Academy Awards seems to run longer every year. And it's not just because of commercials. In fact this year, ABC has promised to air no more than 10 minutes of commercials per hour of the broadcast--the average commercial time per hour is 16 minutes.

So why does it take so long? We put a stopwatch on some of the pivotal moments from last year's ceremony to get a better idea of how Oscar spends his time:

* Opening introduction: 3 minutes, 15 seconds.

* Academy President Robert Rehme's official introduction: 50 seconds.

* Billy Crystal's opening monologue and song parodies: 6 minutes, 45 seconds.

* Billy Crystal's film parodies: 4 minutes.

* Presenter Cuba Gooding Jr. announcing the best supporting actress nominees and winner: 3 minutes, 20 seconds.

* Medley of two best song nominees: 6 minutes.

* Arnold Schwarzenegger's introduction of "Titanic" film clip: 1 minute.

* "Titanic" film clip: 35 seconds. (The average best picture clip ran from 35 to 40 seconds.)

* Best supporting actor Robin Williams' acceptance: 1 minute, 10 seconds.

* Film clips of famous animal performers: 1 minute, 50 seconds.

* Bart the Bear's appearance: 30 seconds.

* Fay Wray's appearance with Crystal in audience: 30 seconds.

* Production number featuring the best original musical or comedy score nominees: 4 minutes, 15 seconds.

* Helen Hunt's acceptance for best actress: 1 minute, 30 seconds.

* Ashley Judd introducing clips of the scientific and technical awards ceremony: 1 minute, 20 seconds.

* Martin Scorsese's introduction of honorary Oscar winner Stanley Donen: 1 minute, 25 seconds.

* Donen's soft-shoe acceptance: 2 minutes.

* Whoopi Goldberg introducing clips of performers who had died in the past year: 1 minute.

* Film clips of recently deceased actors and filmmakers: 2 minutes, 35 seconds.

* Clips of previous winning films: 4 minutes, 25 seconds.

* Susan Sarandon presenting former Oscar winners: 1 minute, 25 seconds.

* Oscar Family Album: 12 minutes, 45 seconds.

* James Cameron's acceptance speech for directing "Titanic" (including the "I'm the king of the world" line): 1 minute, 30 seconds.

* Cameron and Jon Landau accepting best picture award: 3 minutes, 15 seconds.

* Billy Crystal's send-off: 10 seconds.

* End credits: 3 1/2 minutes.

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