The results are in: the 90th Academy Awards bombed.
The official ratings for the biggest awards ceremony of the year state that the show managed just 26.5 million viewers, down 19 percent from last year’s 32.9 million.
This puts the 2018 Oscars at an all-time low for ratings — never before have the numbers dropped below 30 million. Last year was itself a nine-year low, suggesting that audiences are, for whatever reason, losing interesting in the awards show.
So what’s causing this? Are people genuinely no longer interested in the Academy Awards?
There are probably a lot of factors at play here.
One issue, that the ceremony itself tried to address with that ridiculous Jet Ski competition, is that the whole show is just too long. The entire ceremony is a self-indulgent moment for an industry that thrives on attention, so the vast majority of attendees milk their moment in the spotlight for all it’s worth.
In the modern era, with so many choices for entertainment, it’s hard to plan out several hours to sit down and watch famous people congratulate each other. There’s always something better to do, and it seems that the number of people willing to tolerate a lengthy awards ceremony is shrinking.
Besides, it’s far easier to get the results of the Oscars in a more digestible way. The results are live-tweeted by various sources, YouTube has all the best speeches within moments of their completion, and if nothing else, it’s possible to catch up with a quick read of a few online news sites in a few seconds, rather than giving up hours to watch the results come in live.
It makes sense that the Oscars would lose people’s interest; the entire format of the awards show is a relic from a bygone era when entertainment media was limited.
This, of course, doesn’t speak to perhaps the biggest heart of the problem: Oscar-winning movies are now so far removed from the kinds of films that people actually want to watch, that there’s no real appeal in seeing the ceremony.
The 2018 Oscars is a rare example of popular films ruling the roost, with awards for “The Shape of Water” and “Get Out,” among others.
Who, though, bothered to watch “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”? The film that produced two of the performance awards from the show is classic Oscar bait that’s about as interesting to the average moviegoer as watching ripples in a puddle for two hours.
While the most recent Oscars have been oddly populist in their choice of movies, the current downturn in viewing figures is likely a result of years of elitism on the part of the Academy, as the tastes of the Oscar voting committee and the average movie viewer have diverged so far as to make this award ceremony feel entirely alien to most people.
This doesn’t feel like a situation that’s going to reverse anytime soon, and we might just have to accept the fact that the Oscars really aren’t all that relevant as a measure of success anymore.
Sorry, Gary Oldman. Enjoy your little statue, but bear in mind that you’ll be remembered more for playing Sirius Black than you ever will be for your turn as Winston Churchill.