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Will the Oscars be a 'who cares' moment as ratings dive?

Oscars: do we still care?

George Bradley used to love watching the Academy Awards. The 28-year-old Brit now living in San Diego would stay up late back home just to tune in.

Though he's now in the right time zone, he's just not interested, and that's due primarily to the pandemic.

“The rising dominance of the streaming services has taken the gloss off the Oscars for me,” he said. “You just don't get the same warm fuzzy feeling from when you recognize a movie from the silver screen.”

Whether you watch out of love, because you love to hate or have given up like Bradley, awards shows have suffered since the coronavirus shuttered theatres and shut down live performances. But the ratings slide for awards nights began well before Covid-19 took over.

For much of this century, the Oscars drew 35 million to 45 million viewers, often just behind the Super Bowl. Last year, just before the pandemic was declared, the hostless telecast on ABC was seen by its smallest audience ever, 23.6 million viewers, down 20 per cent from the year before.

The pandemic-era Golden Globes a little more than a year later plummeted to 6.9 million viewers, down 64% from last year and barely besting 2008, the year a writer’s strike forced NBC to air a news conference announcing winners. Last year, pre-lockdown, the show had 18.4 million viewers, according to the Nielsen company.

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

John Bennardo, 52, in Boca Raton, Florida, is a film buff, film school graduate and screenwriter, and runs a videography business for mostly corporate clients. This year is a no-go for the Oscars.

“I love the movies and aspire to be on that very Oscars stage receiving my own award some day,” he said. “I watch each year and take it in, enter contests where I try to pick winners and try to see all the films. But something has changed for this year.”

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

“Maybe I’ll watch 'Zach Snyder’s Justice League' instead. It might be shorter,” Bennardo joked about the Oscars show.

Like other awards shows, the Oscars telecast was pushed back due to pandemic restrictions and safety concerns. The show had been postponed three times before in history, but never so far in advance. Organizers last June scheduled it for April 25, as opposed to its usual slot in February or early March.

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

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

“Definitely the shuttering of the theatres created my lack of interest this year," she said. "I didn’t get any sense of Oscar buzz.”



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