Will the Oscars be a ‘who cares’ moment as audience ratings plummet?

NEW YORK (AP) – George Bradley loved watching the Academy Awards. The 28-year-old Brit now living in San Diego would stay up late at home just to tune in.

Although you are now in the correct time zone, you are simply not interested, and that is mainly due to the pandemic.

“The growing dominance of streaming services has taken the shine off the Oscars,” he said. “You just don’t have the same warm, fuzzy feeling as when you recognize a movie on the big screen.”

Whether you watch for love, because you love to hate, or have given up like Bradley, award shows have suffered since the coronavirus closed theaters and shut down live performances. But the ratings drop for award nights began long before Covid-19 took over.

For much of this century, the Oscars drew between 35 and 45 million viewers, often right behind the Super Bowl. Last year, just before the pandemic was declared, the hostless broadcast on ABC was viewed by its smallest audience of 23.6 million viewers, 20 percent less than the previous year.

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The pandemic-era Golden Globes just over a year later plummeted to 6.9 million viewers, down 64% from last year and barely outperforming 2008, the year a writers’ strike forced NBC to broadcast a press conference announcing the winners. Last year, before closing, the show had 18.4 million viewers, according to the Nielsen company.

In March, Grammy producers avoided Zoom’s awkwardness from other award shows and staged performances by some of the biggest stars in the industry, to no avail. The CBS broadcast reached 9.2 million viewers, both television and broadcast, the lowest number on record and a 51% drop since 2020, Nielsen said.

John Bennardo, 52, of Boca Raton, Florida, is a movie buff, film school graduate, and screenwriter, and runs a videography business for primarily corporate clients. This year it is impossible for the Oscars.

“I love movies and I aspire to be on that same stage at the Oscars receiving my own award one day,” he said. “I look at each year and take it in, I participate in contests where I try to choose winners and I try to see all the movies. But something has changed for this year ”.

For starters, he hasn’t seen a single film nominated in any category.

“Maybe he’ll see ‘Zach Snyder’s Justice League’ instead. It could be shorter, ”Bennardo joked about the Oscars show.

Like other award shows, the Oscars broadcast was delayed due to pandemic restrictions and security concerns. The show had been postponed three times before in history, but never so far in advance. The organizers last June scheduled it for April 25, as opposed to their usual hours in February or early March.

Count that among other driving forces behind Oscar fatigue. Another, according to former fans of the show, is having to watch nominated movies on small screens and keep up with when and where they are available on streaming and on-demand services. It has been a big blur for some.

Priscilla Visintine, 62, in St. Louis, Missouri, used to live to see the Academy Awards. She attended watch parties every year, usually fully dressed for the occasion.

“Definitely closing the theaters created my disinterest this year,” he said. “I had no sense of the Oscar rumor.”

Not all fans have given up on their favorite awards show.

In Knoxville, Tennessee, Jennifer Rice, 50, and her 22-year-old son Jordan have raced for years to see as many nominated films as possible. In years past, it was their “February Madness,” he said, and they kept charts to document their predictions. She was even able to attend the Oscars in 2019 through her work for a beauty company at the time.

“My other two sons, 25 and 19, are not interested in the Oscars. It’s something special for Jordan and me, ”Rice said. “The Oscars actually push us to see movies that we may never have chosen. I’m not that excited this year, but we’re still trying to see everything before the awards ceremony. “

As real-life hardships have intensified for many viewers, from food insecurity and work disruption to isolated lockdowns and parental struggles, the award shows offer less escapism and glare than at the past, often relying on prerecorded performances and Zoom frames for nominees. Furthermore, the data shows little interest among younger generations for dating television in general.

Pierre Subeh, a 22-year-old from Orlando, Florida, a lifelong movie lover and filmmaker, stopped watching the Oscars in 2019.

“We can barely stay in a 15-second TikTok. How are we expected to sit through a lengthy four-hour awards ceremony filled with outdated offensive advertisements and jokes? We live in the age of content curation. We need algorithms to figure out what we want to see and show us the best of the best, ”he said.

As a Muslim immigrant from the Middle East, Subeh also sees little inclusion of his culture in mainstream cinema, let alone on the Oscars stage.

“We are only mentioned when Aladdin is mentioned. I don’t feel motivated to gather my family together on a Sunday to attend a four-hour awards ceremony that never has any kind of mention of our culture and religion. However, as Muslims, we represent approximately 25% of the world’s population, ”he said.

Jon Niccum, 55, of Lawrence, Kansas, teaches screenwriting at Kansas State University. He is a filmmaker, went to film school and has worked as a film critic. He and his wife host an annual Oscars party, with 30 guests in full swing, which includes a bets group on winners for money and prizes. This year it will be only for families due to the pandemic, but the stakes are on.

And watching the best movies at home? For the most part, he said, “It was less satisfying.” Less satisfying to ditch the Oscars broadcast?

“I haven’t missed an Oscar in 45 years. I’ll watch every minute, ”Niccum said.

In Medford, NJ, Deb Madison, 65, will also be watching, as she has since she was a child and her mother first took her to the movies.

In 2018, while on a motorhome trip with her husband, she had him bike into town with her in Carlsbad, New Mexico, to find a place to look. The return trip was in total darkness. Another year, when he was working the front desk at a big party in Philadelphia on Oscar night, the coordinators laid the cable and provided him with a small television hidden under the welcome desk so he could tune in.

This year, trying to keep up with the home nominees has stifled their enthusiasm, Madison said.

“I’m a fan of the red carpet and dresses and, ‘My God, I can’t believe she wore that.’ Another thing is, I don’t need to see these actors in their home settings.” he said with a laugh. “This year, if I missed it, it wouldn’t be tragic. No one would need to lay cable this year. But I still love movies. “


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