The Oscars: Bad Ratings Despite Good Intentions

By Sarah Rovinsky

The Hollywood award system and the Academy have become hopelessly detached from movie goers. In the midst of the disappointment, awards dispersed in unpopular directions. This time last year, the Oscars received roughly 43 million views. Unfortunately, last weekend the Oscar broadcast on ABC drew about 36.6 million viewers, down 14.9 percent from the previous year, making it the lowest-rated Oscars since 2009.

Film studies librarian at Michigan University Phillip Hallman told the New York Times, “It’s sad, but most people have to finally accept that the Oscars have become, well, elitist and not in step with anything that is actually popular… No one really believes anymore that the films they chose are the ones that are going to last over time.”

Spectators openly rooted for Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper which was based the true story of war veteran Chris Kyle. The motion picture took in about $320 million at the domestic box office from nearly 40 million viewers. Box office analysts predict it will easily make it to number one film released last year. But American Sniper, one of eight Best Picture nominees and with six nominations overall, walked away with nothing but a sound-editing statuette. The second-ranked film among the best picture nominees, The Imitation Game, with $84 million in sales from 10 million viewers, had similar results. It won one out of eight nominated categories.

The Best Picture win went to Birdman. A film seen by fewer than five million ticket buyers but raked in about $11 million in sales from the time it was nominated to Sunday. In the least offensive way to the producers, actors, and staff of Birdman, how does this happen?

It wasn’t supposed to be this way: In 2009, Academy officials increased their field of best picture nominees, from five to a maximum of 10, to embrace large, world-spanning films. The intentions were to shift the Oscars towards relevancy and most of the winning films would also be popular with the audience as well. However, the larger group of potential winners has only brought in more little movies which became incredibly obvious. For example, Whiplash won three awards but has been seen by perhaps 1.4 million people since it was released over four months ago. As result, ratings drop as the audience drifts further away, probably watching their beloved award less movies.

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