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Motion picture academy gets a digital makeover with redesigned website

Motion picture academy gets a digital makeover with redesigned website
The academy's digital archive will include access to a handwritten note from Grace Kelly (shown) to costume designer Edith Head. (Handout)

If only Humphrey Bogart had known how hot he'd be on YouTube.

Since the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences posted a home video of Bogart and Lauren Bacall sailing on their yacht in 1949, the one minute, 42-second clip of the glamorous couple has been viewed more than 36,000 times on the academy's YouTube channel.

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The academy's archive is a trove of such Hollywood heirlooms, but until recently they've been available only to visitors to its Margaret Herrick Library on La Cienega Boulevard or attendees at academy events.

On Thursday, the organization will launch a redesigned Web page at Oscars.org that opens the academy's archive to Internet users, allowing them to share its content via social media, contribute to its collections and immerse themselves in pages about artists and films.

The digital makeover is part of the academy's overall effort to reach out to general audiences, a mandate of increasing urgency as the industry group prepares to open its ambitious new film museum in Los Angeles in 2017.

"The Oscar and the academy has always stood for excellence," said Josh Spector, the group's managing director of digital media and marketing, whom academy chief marketing officer Christina Kounelias enlisted three years ago to expand its digital reach. "I think we're more accessible now… letting people touch, feel and interact with what we stand for."

Created in-house, with the help of Burbank marketing agency Trailer Park, the new site has a clean, minimalist design, with simpler navigation than its predecessor.

In addition to the academy's usual business functions, such as pages on its Oscar telecast and upcoming events, there are tabs titled "explore" and "learn," which are geared toward casual film fans, serious researchers or anyone who might enjoy a coffee break spent reading a handwritten note from Grace Kelly to costume designer Edith Head or watching John Wayne accept Gary Cooper's Oscar for "High Noon."

Traditionally the academy has spoken to the wider community of film fans around the world just once a year, during its Oscar telecast, but over the last three years the group has been broadening its reach via the Internet.

The academy now has three Facebook pages, two YouTube channels and active accounts on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and Google Plus. It has also produced a series of short documentaries called "Academy Originals."

Despite the notoriously short attention spans of Internet users, those who have engaged with the academy's early stabs at digital content seem to stick around a while — on average, people watch the group's YouTube videos for more than five minutes, a veritable David Lean length on the medium.

Now that the site is up, the next step for the academy will be helping people find it. To help drive traffic there on Thursday, it will launch a contest on the site to win tickets to the Oscars.

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