Oscar ratings hit

Praise for Kodak, low numbers for ABC

Almost everything was “Beautiful” at the 74th annual Academy Awards Sunday. The winning film survived the mudslinging, and Oscar’s new home is getting rave reviews. But the ratings are another matter.

The longest Academy Awards show in history posted its lowest household ratings ever (25.4/42), according to preliminary Nielsen ratings. That’s down 3% from last year (26.2/40), the previous lowest.

The show pulled its smallest rating among adults 18-49 (16.1, down 10% from last year’s 17.8) since people meters were introduced in 1987.

As for total viewers — a number that has generally held steady through the years thanks to population increases — the event averaged an aud of 41.8 million. That’s its lowest number since 1997 (40.1 million), down 3% from last year (42.9 million).

Still, the Academy Awards will clock in as the season’s fourth-highest rated telecast of the season (not counting Super Bowl postgame coverage). Only the Super Bowl (86.8 million), the Opening Ceremony of the Winter Olympics (45.6 million) and the Games’ women’s figure-skating long program (43.3 million) snared more viewers.

Final ratings will be released today by Nielsen.

Meanwhile, the Kodak Theatre is getting thumbs-up from the attendees who spoke to Daily Variety. Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences exec administrator Ric Robertson said on Monday, “We’re extremely pleased. We’re getting a lot of phone calls from members and board members. The response is overwhelmingly positive. I haven’t heard anything negative.”

Most attendees concur. “It’s a pretty great theater,” said one Acad member. “The entryway was the best I’ve ever seen. From where I was sitting, in the first mezzanine, the sound was great. And getting there was great because they had so many goddamn checkpoints and barricades.”

Those who attended the Oscar ceremony and its ancillary parties also volunteered the following observations:

  • A record number of winners opted to read acceptance speeches rather than risking a spontaneous (and perhaps overemotional) response;

  • And the exemplary turnout of superstars as presenters, participants and audience members effectively refuted contentions that the Golden Globes were increasingly impinging on the importance of the Oscars.

  • There were a healthy number of parties — but an unhealthy number of partygoers. At fetes held Friday and Saturday and post-awards, many people complained about the crush of people.

Campaign reforms

And as for Universal-DreamWorks’ “A Beautiful Mind,” even some of the pic’s naysayers are grudgingly hoping that the film’s four wins will put an end to the nasty campaign tactics — or at least the over-coverage of these alleged tactics.

Universal folk rang the alarm after the pic became the center of negative buzz. Internet and print reports complained that it romanticized and fictionalized the truth, and criticized the character of John Nash, the real-life schizophrenic genius who’s the center of the film.

People connected with the film blamed rivals for the talk. They said that if the film lost, there was a danger that future Oscar campaigners would seize on the effectiveness of negative campaigns.

It’s possible that the film engendered a few sympathy votes. But many Academy pundits on Monday concurred that ultimately, Acad voters pick the pic they like. The negative campaigning “turned out to be a non-factor,” said American Movie Classics consultant Pete Hammond. “Voting is an individual thing and the film won because the greatest number of people voted for it. I don’t think it’s more complicated than that.”

Back to ratings: The Alphabet web estimated that about 77 million viewers watched at least a few minutes of this year’s broadcast, up from last year’s 72.2 million. The Academy Awards posted a 30.0 rating/46 share in the nation’s top 53 metered markets, up 3% from last year’s 29.2/43.

Meanwhile, for the second year in a row, hometown Los Angeles did not generate the highest rating among Nielsen’s metered markets — despite all the hoopla surrounding Oscar’s return to Hollywood and the civic cheerleading that went with it.

Oscar’s kind of town

Chicago was tops, scoring a 38.2 rating/52 share, followed by San Francisco (37.9/58) and West Palm Beach, Fla. (36.6/50). Los Angeles was fourth, with 35.1/52. Despite a tribute to the town by filmmakers Woody Allen and Nora Ephron, New York was seventh (33.3/54).

Elsewhere, Fox counterprogrammed with a repeat of the theatrical “Independence Day,” coming in second for the evening with a 5.0/12 among adults 18-49 and 11.2 million viewers, according to prelim numbers.

The kudofest gives a much-needed boost to down-in-the-dumps ABC, which used the occasion to promote new skeins “Wednesday 9:30,” “George Lopez,” “The Court” and “The Bachelor,” among others. It also reps the net’s best ratings since last year’s Oscarcast.

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