Pandemic Academy Awards ratings anemic

(Oscar ratings drop under 10M for first time)

Things didn’t go exactly as planned for Hollywood’s biggest night. In a year, where Hollywood held back most of its biggest films due to the pandemic, the 93rd Academy Awards drew its smallest audience ever.

While the awards tried to change things up in a year that saw a tragic pandemic take and shut down lives, it wasn’t enough to spark audience interest. The awards moved from the Dolby Theater in Hollywood to Union Train Station which is located in downtown LA.

The smaller venue allowed for a maskless audience and an indie movie-style production from director Steven Soderbergh as well as a change in format to create suspense with the hope of a surprise ending.

While ratings were expected to be low, no one really thought the Oscars would drop this drastically. The show drew an average of 9.8 million viewers for ABC on Sunday, according to early Nielsen numbers. That’s an epic 58% below the ratings from last year’s show, the previous lowest-rated Oscars, which brought in in 23.6 million viewers. According to CNN, just seven years ago the Oscars drew 40 million.

So in a year where diversity was tantamount as nine actors of color were nominated and two females (including a woman of color) were nominated for director, why did the Oscar ratings drop?

For one, ratings have taken the express elevator down during the pandemic. The Emmys, Grammys and Golden Globes have all experienced record low ratings.

Also many of the Oscar-nominated films weren’t known to the general audiences. While in 2020, general audiences may not have known Parasite, they were certainly aware of Joker, Ford v Ferrari and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

And while many of the films were excellent in quality, the subject matters ranged from depressing to even more depressing. In a pandemic, audiences may have preferred escapism.

Reviews for the show were decidedly mixed. Some gave the Oscars credit for trying to be unique. But others felt it was weird. The change in order of awards also surprised many.

The consensus was that the producers swapped categories thinking Chadwick Boseman, who was the clear favorite to win Best Actor for his performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, would give the show an emotionally-packed ending.

That didn’t happen as Anthony Hopkins won and wasn’t even in attendance, making the ending awkward and anticlimatic.

As things begin to return to normal and theaters open, perhaps the ratings will be higher next year.