Oscars battle Grammys for number of viewers

Entertainment: Show has to get 40 m viewers to retain status of second most-watched US event,grammys had 39.9 m viewers

Written by Reuters | Los Angeles | Published: February 27, 2012 1:10 am

When the curtain comes up on the Oscars,producers of the movie awards show will be less worried about who wins which trophy than they will be about how many people tune-in on television.

The world’s top film honours are in jeopardy of losing their status as the second most-watched TV event in the US behind professional football’s Super Bowl if they can’t lure more than 40 million viewers,which will be difficult given that silent movie The Artist is this year’s big picture.

The Grammys lured an audience of 39.9 million to TV earlier this month,one day after Whitney Houston died. That was the Grammys biggest audience since 1984 and well over the 26 million who tuned in to the music industry’s top honours last year. If the Oscars can’t beat 40 million,they will drop to No. 3.

Only twice since 2002 have the Oscars,which are given out by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences,drawn an audience over 40 million,and that happened in years when two major blockbusters,The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King and Avatar,competed for best film.

This year,the expected big winner is black-and-white,silent movie The Artist,which is picked to take home best film by most industry pundits and comes into the night with 10 nominations,second only to Martin Scorsese’s Hugo with 11. “It’s unbeatable,” Dave Karger,movie writer for Entertainment Weekly magazine,said about The Artist. And that is a problem for the academy and the ABC TV network that airs the programme because typically more viewers tune in when major box office hits compete for awards.

French film The Artist has wowed critics with its tale of a star in the era of silent movies whose career is fading just as talkies are taking over the industry. However,the romance has failed to draw huge numbers to box offices with only about $30 million in US and Canadian ticket sales. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King and Avatar had ticket sales in the hundreds of millions by the time they competed for Oscars.

So,Oscar producers are hoping a return of popular comedian Billy Crystal to host the programme will lure viewers. He hasn’t appeared since 2004.

Besides the host,their is much to look out for. Meryl Streep might join the elite acting three-peat club with a third Academy Award. Jean Dujardin could become the first Frenchman to win best actor. Christopher Plummer is in line to become the oldest acting winner ever at 82. And The Artist may become the only silent movie to take best-picture since the first Oscar ceremony 83 years ago.

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