‘Barbie’ and ‘Oppenheimer’ boost Oscar viewership, but not greatly.  

Los Angeles — Oscar ratings rose somewhat with “Barbenheimer”. About 19.5 million people watched ABC's 96th Academy Awards on Sunday. That's the show's greatest audience in four years. But the rising trend comes from an all-time low during the epidemic and is up just 4% from last year's 18.7 million audience.

This year's Academy Awards program was an hour earlier than usual and had several nominees for blockbusters viewers have seen, such as “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer.” The final 30 minutes, when Ryan Gosling performed “I'm Just Ken” from “Barbie,” Cillian Murphy won best actor, Christopher Nolan won best director for “Oppenheimer,” and Al Pacino gave the film the best picture Oscar in a strange presentation, peaked viewership.

In the night's most intense race, Emma Stone won best actress against Lily Gladstone in the last stretch in front of over 22 million viewers. About half an hour early, the concert began. Jimmy Kimmel started six minutes late due to Gaza demonstrations slowing Dolby Theatre entry, but it's unclear if that influenced viewership.

Last year's Oscar winner, “Everything, Everywhere All at Once,” grossed $143 million worldwide. But “Barbenheimer” is bigger, with “Oppenheimer” approaching a billion global dollars and “Barbie” exceeding it. 

The Oscars had the highest viewership of prior top awards events, which have had comparable slumps. Its 19.5 million viewers outnumbered the Grammys' 16.9 million in February, and the Golden Globes and Emmys in January had much fewer.

For years, the Academy Awards were second only to the Super Bowl in viewership. Nielsen records show the Oscars never dropped below 30 million viewers until 2018. 55 million people watched “Titanic” clean up in 1998, the peak.

At 43.7 million in 2014, viewership dropped to 26.5 million in 2018, then rose to 29.6 million in 2019 and 23.6 million in 2020. The 2021 pandemic-shortened concert, watched by 9.85 million, sank. With 16.6 million in 2022, the Slap year, it recovered.

The movies and their makers aren't wholly responsible. The generational transition to streaming and other video has decimated broadcast television viewership, and only the Super Bowl draws large crowds. Following the Oscars, 6.9 million viewers watched “Abbott Elementary,” a series high. After months of Oscar campaigning, Bradley Cooper played himself and was roasted in a classroom.

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