Late-night host Jimmy Kimmel will emcee the 96th Academy Awards, returning to the Oscars stage for the second consecutive year and the fourth time overall, the motion picture academy announced Wednesday.
Kimmel, who hosted the show in 2017 and 2018 and again earlier this year, represents a reliable, familiar choice to helm the Oscars, which has veered in recent years between innovation and tradition in an effort to maintain its relevance. He joins Whoopi Goldberg and Jack Lemmon as a four-time host, though still falls well behind Bill Crystal, who emceed 9 times, and Bob Hope, who hosted 19.
“I always dreamed of hosting the Oscars exactly four times,” Kimmel, whose wife, Molly McNearney, will return for a second consecutive year to serve as an executive producer, said in a statement.
“We are thrilled about Jimmy returning to host and Molly returning as executive producer for the Oscars," academy chief executive Bill Kramer and president Janet Yang said in a joint statement. "They share our love of movies and our commitment to producing a dynamic and entertaining show for our global audience.”
In addition to his comic chops, Kimmel has proved to both the academy and ABC, which airs "Jimmy Kimmel Live," that he can handle whatever arises on the Oscars stage. That was never more clear than in 2017 when the show went spectacularly off the tracks in its final moments after “La La Land” was mistakenly named best picture instead of the actual winner, “Moonlight.”
The high-stakes role of Oscars emcee has grown increasingly tough to fill in recent years as the spotlight on the show has grown more intense. From 2019 through 2021, the Oscars went without a host, while the 2022 telecast had three co-hosts: Amy Schumer, Wanda Sykes and Regina Hall.
The academy, which draws the bulk of its revenue from the Oscars, is hoping to continue this year's ratings rebound, which saw viewership for the telecast rise 12% from the debacle of the 2022 show, which was derailed when Will Smith struck Chris Rock onstage over a joke about the actor’s wife, Jada Pinkett-Smith.
Nearly 19 million viewers tuned in to watch "Everything Everywhere All at Once" take best picture, a marked improvement over the all-time low of less than 10 million for the pandemic-dampened 2021 telecast. Still, the audience was still well below 26.5 million viewers who tuned in when Kimmel hosted in 2018, let alone the nearly 60 million the show drew at its ratings peak in 1998 when "Titanic" swept the awards.
The Oscars are set to air on Sunday, March 10.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.