This year's Oscars audience plummeted by more than half to a record low 9.85 million viewers, broadcaster ABC said Monday—a staggering if widely expected drop for a ceremony that many viewers found short on humor and star power.
The whopping 58 percent tumble from last year's previous 23.6 million nadir had been anticipated for Hollywood's biggest night, after other award shows held during the pandemic also suffered precipitous declines.
With movie theaters shut for most of the year, many viewers had not seen or even heard of nominees such as Chloe Zhao's Nomadland, which was the night's big winner with three prizes but which has taken just over $2 million at the domestic box office.
Several blockbuster films whose stars could have drawn interest at this year's Oscars saw their release dates shunted to next year due to the pandemic, from Steven Spielberg's West Side Story and the mega-budget sci-fi Dune to an array of popular superhero titles.
That exodus left an unfamiliar crop of nominees competing at Sunday's ceremony, with Daniel Kaluuya and Youn Yuh-jung winning the supporting acting Oscars a year after Brad Pitt and Laura Dern prevailed.
One big name who did win—but was in bed sleeping some 5,000 miles away in Wales—was Anthony Hopkins, who was unexpectedly named best actor for The Father in what was the night's final prize.
The Oscars typically end with best picture, but producers decided to reorganize the categories—and the lack of an acceptance speech at the show's grand finale was criticized by many viewers as anti-climactic.
"At 83 years of age, I did not expect to get this award, I really didn't," said Hopkins in video posted to his Instagram page from Wales on Monday morning.
"I want to pay tribute to Chadwick Boseman who was taken from us far too early," he added, referring to the late Black Panther star who had been expected to win best actor for his final role in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom.
The Oscars drew more than 43 million viewers as recently as 2014, but audiences have become increasingly fragmented in the streaming era.
The 9.85 million viewing figure is based on early Nielson data ordered by ABC.