Oscars get audience lift from 'Barbenheimer,' but ratings not lofty

Oscars get audience lift from ‘Barbie’ and ‘Oppenheimer,’ but ratings not lofty

/ 09:08 AM March 12, 2024

Ryan Gosling performing the song "I'm Just Ken"

Ryan Gosling performs the song “I’m Just Ken” from the movie “Barbie” during the Oscars on Sunday, March 10, 2024, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

LOS ANGELES—“Barbenheimer” brought a bump not a boom to Oscars ratings.

An estimated 19.5 million people watched Sunday night’s 96th Academy Awards ceremony on ABC. That’s the biggest number drawn by the telecast in four years.


But that upward trend comes from an all-time low during the pandemic, and is up just 4% from last year’s estimated audience of 18.7 million, according to numbers released Monday by ABC.


The Academy experimented with starting this year’s show an hour earlier, and for the first time in years had many nominations for huge hit movies that viewers had actually seen—”Barbie” and “Oppenheimer.”

The viewership peaked in the final half hour, when the audience saw Ryan Gosling perform “I’m Just Ken” from “Barbie,” saw Cillian Murphy win best actor and Christopher Nolan win best director for “Oppenheimer,” and Al Pacino give the film the best picture Oscar in an odd presentation.

A major star, Emma Stone, also won best actress in the final stretch in the night’s most competitive race over Lily Gladstone, and an estimated 21 million people saw her do it.

Last year’s big Oscar winner, “Everything, Everywhere All at Once,” was hardly a slouch at the box office, bringing in $143 million globally. But that’s nothing like the “Barbenheimer” juggernaut, with “Oppenheimer” approaching a billion global dollars and “Barbie” surpassing it.

But they didn’t yield the same ballooning numbers for the show that the Academy and ABC might have hoped for.

For many years, the Oscars were often the second most-watched television program of the year behind the Super Bowl. Until 2018, the Oscar telecast had never slipped below 30 million viewers, according to Nielsen records. The high-water mark was the 55 million people who watched “Titanic” clean up in 1998.


From the 43.7 million who watched in 2014, viewership declined steadily to 26.5 million in 2018, then went back up to 29.6 million in 2019, and 23.6 million in 2020. The bottom fell out with the pandemic-diminished show in 2021, seen by 9.85 million. It began rebounding in 2022—the year of the Slap—with 16.6 million.

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TAGS: Barbie, Oppenheimer, Oscars, ratings

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