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Canada's Genie and Gemini bashes to be combined into one awards show

TORONTO – Canada’s top film and television awards bashes are being combined into a single televised ceremony in a bid to draw bigger audiences to the country’s most prestigious entertainment galas.

The Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television says it’s merging annual broadcasts of the Genie Awards, which salute the best in film, and the Gemini Awards, which celebrate homegrown television.

Academy chairman Martin Katz said Tuesday that so many people in the entertainment industry work in both fields so having separate awards shows “started to make less and less sense.”

He hopes a merged gala will result in “a bigger show with bigger impact,” noting it would benefit from being able to feature the hottest stars in each field.

“And when we look at other shows, like the (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) Awards in the U.K. for example, which bring together everyone British that’s in the entertainment business (and) the Golden Globes, bringing together everyone that’s in film or television together, we felt that there was an opportunity to make a show that shines a bigger spotlight on our industry and do that once a year instead of bifurcating our audience and trying to bring them back on more than one occasion,” said Katz, adding that it should also be a better use of limited resources.

The hour-long Gemini Awards typically take place in September while the hour-long Genies air in March. Katz said the next gala will be a two-hour event on March 3, 2013 airing on CBC-TV.

The annual Gémeaux Awards will celebrate French-language television and digital media on Radio-Canada on Sept. 16, as previously announced.

Shows currently eligible for the 2012 Gemini Awards will be part of the academy’s new awards show in March 2013.

Whether the blended bash would dispense with Genie and Gemini trophies in favour of a new accolade was unclear.

Katz said many details surrounding the change were still being worked out. The main goal, he said, was to draw more attention to homegrown talent.

“We obviously want more people to watch. I think getting people to watch a one-hour show in the middle of the week is not as easy as getting people to watch a two-hour show on prime time on Sunday night and so that’s the spot we’ve got now and we’re very excited about it.”

Last September’s Gemini bash averaged 430,000 viewers while the last Genie Awards, which aired in March, averaged 378,000 viewers.

Katz said the gala broadcast would likely feature “a small number” of high profile awards, with other prizes to be spread out over several nights leading up to the bash.

Since the 2012 Gemini bash will be rolled into the upcoming show, Katz added that a committee will meet to determine the new eligibility period for TV shows competing for the 2013 race and beyond.

The blended bash is just the latest in a series of reforms brought in by the academy over the past year.

Previous shakeups included an entirely new board of directors, tweaked eligibility criteria for films competing for a Genie Award, a reduced number of Gemini Award categories, and a new international Gemini category.

Film and television writer, director and producer Sudz Sutherland praised the academy for trying something different.

“Award shows are tough,” said Sutherland, whose TV projects “Guns” and “Doomstown” have collected Geminis in the past.

“I can see we have a problem attracting audiences and I think we have to do different things in order to do that, especially in this age of so much splintering of the media, splintering of channels and attention.”

Movie producer David Hamilton also welcomed the latest change.

“I think it’s brilliant,” Hamilton said during a break from post-production on his upcoming feature with director Deepa Mehta, “Midnight’s Children.”

“I think it’s more likely to build an audience.”

Hamilton said the blended bash should benefit filmmakers in particular because the average Canadian seems more aware of homegrown television talent than film talent.

“The only thing that worries me is how long is it going to be?” he said chuckling.

“But they’re clever people, they’ll figure out how to make it entertaining.”