The ratings comeback for the Oscars was short-lived as ABC’s telecast on Sunday was watched by 23.6 million viewers, an all-time low.
The 92nd Academy Awards ceremony from the Dolby Theatre was down 20% from 2019. Last year, the telecast was up 12% coming off its previous all-time low of 26.5 million viewers in 2018.
The ceremony presented by the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences was historic due to the surprising best picture win for “Parasite” — the first non-English language film ever to take the trophy. But box office appeal is often an indicator for Oscar ratings, and the film from South Korean director Bong Joon Ho has only made about $35 million in ticket sales in the U.S. and Canada.
The audience level for last year’s program rose due to the presence of Disney’s mega-hit “Black Panther,” which had seven nominations and three wins, and musical performances from Lady Gaga and Queen.
TV viewing for the Oscars and other awards shows have been under pressure in recent years as more viewers are watching video online. During live awards ceremonies, younger viewers tend to watch clips on social media sites instead of sitting through an entire three-hour plus telecast.
“Parasite” was the big winner on Sunday, earning awards for direction, original screenplay and international film. Other major category winners included Joaquin Phoenix for best actor in “The Joker,” Renée Zellweger for best actress in “Judy,” Laura Dern for best supporting actress in “Marriage Story,” and Brad Pitt for best supporting actor in “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood.”
The ceremony had a sizable helping of political rhetoric, which has been considered a turnoff for some viewers and turned into talking points for right wing critics who seek to portray Hollywood figures as leftist, out-of-touch elites.
The most direct hit came from Pitt, who commented that the 45 seconds allotted for his acceptance speech was “more than the Senate gave John Bolton this week,” which was the only reference to the impeachment trial of President Trump. Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser, offered to testify were the Senate to subpoena him. But the Senate voted not to allow witnesses at the trial. Trump was acquitted on Wednesday.