The 70th Academy Awards ceremony, organized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), took place on March 23, 1998, at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles beginning at 6:00 p.m. PST / 9:00 p.m. EST. During the show, AMPAS presented Academy Awards (commonly referred to as Oscars) in 24 categories honoring films released in 1997. The ceremony, which was televised in the United States by ABC, was produced by Gil Cates and directed by Louis J. Horvitz. Actor Billy Crystal hosted the show for the sixth time. He first presided over the 62nd ceremony held in 1990, and he had hosted the previous year's gala. Nearly a month earlier in an event held at the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, California on February 28, the Academy Awards for Technical Achievement were presented by host Ashley Judd.
Titanic won a record-tying eleven awards including Best Director for James Cameron and Best Picture. Other winners included As Good as It Gets, Good Will Hunting and L.A. Confidential with two awards, and The Full Monty, Geri's Game, Karakter, The Long Way Home, Visas and Virtue, Men in Black, and A Story of Healing with one. The telecast garnered more than 57 million viewers in the United States, making it the most watched Oscars broadcast in history.
The nominees for the 70th Academy Awards were announced on February 10, 1998, at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills, California, by Robert Rehme, president of the Academy, and actress Geena Davis. Titanic received the most nominations with a record-tying fourteen (1950's All About Eve also achieved this distinction); Good Will Hunting and L.A. Confidential came in second with nine apiece.
The winners were announced during the awards ceremony on March 23, 1998. With eleven awards, Titanic tied with Ben-Hur for the most academy awards in Oscar history. It also became the first film to win Best Picture without a screenplay nomination since 1965's The Sound of Music. Best Actress winner Helen Hunt was the first performer to win an Oscar while concurrently starring in a television series; Jack Nicholson became the fourth performer to win at least three acting Oscars. Both won for their roles in As Good as it Gets, making it the seventh film to win both lead acting awards. Nominated for their performances as Rose DeWitt Bukater in Titanic, Best Actress nominee Kate Winslet and Best Supporting Actress nominee Gloria Stuart became the first pair of actress nominated for portraying the same character in the same film. At age 87, Stuart also became the oldest performer nominated for a competitive Oscar.
Winners are listed first, highlighted in boldface, and indicated with a double dagger ().Stanley Donen
The following individuals presented awards or performed musical numbers.
In December 1997, the Academy hired veteran Oscar telecast producer Gil Cates to oversee the 1998 ceremony. “Gil has become the consummate Oscar show producer, consistently garnering top television ratings for the telecast,” said AMPAS president Robert Rehme in a press release announcing the selection. “His shows are full of wit, charm and surprise.” A few days later, actor and comedian Billy Crystal was chosen to emcee the upcoming telecast. Cates explained his reason to bring back the veteran comedian saying, "Billy's performance last year was spectacular. There is nobody like him." In an article published in USA Today he initially requested to Cates and AMPAS five months after the previous year's ceremony that he would like to take a break from hosting duties. However, pressure from the Academy, Cates, and several friends and family members made him reconsider his decision. His sixth stint would make him second only to Bob Hope in number of ceremonies hosted.
To commemorate the seventieth anniversary of the Academy Awards, 70 actors who have received both competitive and honorary awards appeared seated onstage together during a segment called Oscar's Family Album. Each former winner was acknowledged by announcer Norman Rose with the films he or she won for. At the end of the segment newly minted winners Kim Bassinger, Helen Hunt, and Robin Williams joined them. This marked the largest gathering of former winners since the 50th ceremony held in 1978.
Several others participated in the production of the ceremony. Bill Conti served as musical director for the telecast. Dancer Daniel Ezralow choreographed a dance number showcasing the nominees for Best Original Comedy or Musical Score. Bart the Bear made a surprise appearance during the presentation of the Best Sound award with Mike Myers.
At the time of the nominations announcement on February 10, the combined gross of the five Best Picture nominees was $579 million with an average of $116 million per film. Titanic was the highest earner among the Best Picture nominees with $338.7 million in domestic box office receipts. The film was followed by As Good as It Gets ($92.6 million), Good Will Hunting ($68.9 million), L.A. Confidential ($39.7 million), and finally The Full Monty ($38.7 million).
Of the top 50 grossing movies of the year, 40 nominations went to 15 films on the list. Only Titanic (1st), As Good as It Gets (16th), Good Will Hunting (20th), and In & Out (24th) were nominated for directing, acting, screenwriting, or Best Picture. The other top 50 box office hits that earned nominations were Men in Black (2nd), The Lost World: Jurassic Park (3rd), Air Force One (5th), My Best Friends Wedding (7th), Face/Off (9th), Con Air (12th), Contact (13th), Hercules (14th), The Fifth Element (25th), Anastasia (30th), and Starship Troopers (34th).
The show received a positive reception from most media publications. Television critic Howard Rosenberg of the Los Angeles Times lauded Crystal's performance writing that he "would earn top billing as that unusual comedian as artful at doing musical comedy as jokes." San Francisco Chronicle columnist John Carman raved,"It was the best Oscar show in two decades." He also gave high marks for the host, commenting, "But last night, Crystal was back in razor form." The Seattle Times television editor Kay McFadden praised Crystal commenting that "he possesses nearly impeccable timing and judgment." In addition, she noted that while the ceremony dragged on, "Last night was one of television's smartest live ceremonies in recent memory."
Some media outlets were more critical of the show. Ray Richmond of Variety complained that the a ceremony proved to be a "Yawner of an Oscarcast." He added that Crystal's "off-the-cuff one-liners sank faster than the great ship herself." Boston Globe television critic Matthew Gilbert bemoaned,"There was hardly a spontaneous moment during last night's Oscarcast." Film critic Carrie Rickey from The Philadelphia Inquirer lamented that the inevitable Titanic sweep "sank a telecast loaded with montages of previous years' Oscar highlights."
The American telecast on ABC drew in an average of 57.25 million people over its length, which was a 29% increase from the previous year's ceremony. An estimated 87.50 million total viewers watched all or part of the awards. The show also earned higher Nielsen ratings compared to the previous ceremony with 35.32% of households watching over a 55.77 share. In addition, it garnered a higher 18–49 demo rating with a 24.90 rating over a 44.30 share among viewers in that demographic. It was, and remains to date, the highest viewership for an Academy Award telecast since figures were compiled beginning with the 46th ceremony in 1974.
In July 1998, the ceremony presentation received eight nominations at the 50th Primetime Emmys. Two months later, the ceremony won five of those nominations for Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program (Billy Crystal), Outstanding Directing for a Variety or Music Program (Louis J Horvitz), Outstanding Lighting Direction (Electronic) for a Drama Series, Variety Series, Miniseries, or Movie (Bob Barnhart, Robert Dickinson, Matt Ford, Andy O'Reilly), Outstanding Music Direction (Bill Conti), and Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Variety Series or Special (Patrick Baltzell, Robert Douglass, Edward J. Greene, Tommy Vicari).
The annual In Memoriam tribute was presented by actress Whoopi Goldberg. The montage featured an excerpt of "Appassionata" from The Passage composed by Michael J. Lewis.