LOS ANGELES (AP) — With just a few days to go until the 96th Academy Awards on Sunday, the show’s producers are feeling good about what they’ve put together.

The nominees are some of the best the Oscars have seen, including some true blockbusters like “Oppenheimer” and “Barbie.” Ryan Gosling is singing “I’m Just Ken” during the show. There will be a live orchestra in the theater. And the ever-reliable Jimmy Kimmel is back to host the proceedings for the fourth time.

“We’re really excited about this year,” said Molly McNearney, who is executive producing the show for the fourth time. “It’s a phenomenal year of movies. And we have great movies that the home audience is familiar with, which makes our jobs easier.”

The producers were hired earlier than usual, meaning they’ve had more time to plan and study past Oscars broadcasts to try to home in on what works and what doesn’t. One thing they’ve learned is that if the room is laughing, the audience at home is usually laughing too.

McNearney, who is married to Kimmel, said that they’re focusing on jokes over big, highly produced comedy bits. Kimmel will do his 10-minute monologue to kick off the show and will be sprinkled throughout.

“I think an evening that just makes people feel good is a win,” McNearney said. “Our job as producers is to keep that feeling good moving quickly because it is a long show and we want to make sure people are staying throughout.”

Another thing that works: When the speeches are good and people feel invested in the winners. Last year there were a lot of great comeback and underdog stories, from Brendan Fraser to Ke Huy Quan, which helped. This is not something the producers have any control over, but they are optimistic about the nominees and setting up scenarios with presenters who have a genuine connection either with each other or people in the audience.

“We want everybody to feel included, that they are part of our story,” said executive producer and showrunner Raj Kapoor. “I hope that we have put another kind of modern take on it that really focuses on storytelling and connection and that the audience in the theater and at home will just feel immersed in the experience all throughout the evening.”

Kapoor noted that the live performances of the Oscar-nominated original songs should be a real highlight of the show too, from the Osage singers to Gosling. They’ve also re-designed the stage so that an orchestra of 42 musicians can be in the Dolby Theatre and seen on camera. And Kapoor teased that the In Memoriam sequence is something they’ve put a lot of time and thought into and that it is poised to tug at audience heartstrings.

“There’s going to be entertainment and lots of surprises and a few cameos and things that haven’t been announced yet. We’re just really excited for everybody to come watch with us,” Katy Mullan said. “The Oscars is one of those last giant tentpole pop culture moments that everybody looks forward to and gathers around that TV set. It’s co-viewing at its best. And we’re in this moment where there’s more interest around these big live moments than there has been in years.”

Their main concern at the moment is that the global audience remembers that the broadcast begins an hour earlier than normal, at 7 p.m. EDT. It’s also the first day of daylight saving time.

“I think people are going to bed earlier and people are very excited, hopefully, that it’s starting at 7,” Mullan said. “It won’t be so late for everyone hanging on for the best picture announcement.”

The 96th Oscars will be broadcast live on ABC from the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles on March 10 with the pre-show beginning at 6:30 p.m. EDT.


For more coverage of this year’s Academy Awards, visit: https://apnews.com/hub/academy-awards

Lindsey Bahr, The Associated Press