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 worlds top film honours are in jeopardy of losing their status as the second most-watched TV event in the US behind professional footballs Super Bowl if they cant lure more than 40 million viewers,which will be difficult given that silent movie The Artist is this years 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 industrys top honours last year. If the Oscars cant 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 Scorseses Hugo with 11. Its 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 hasnt 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.