Wrapped in red carpet mystique at the height of Hollywood's Golden Age, the Oscars' appeal has plummeted in recent years, according to Nielsen.
From 2014, when 43.7 million people tuned in, to this year's paltry 13.5 million, the audience for the Academy Awards has collapsed by 70% in the past decade.
The ratings have been steadily declining by a few million each year since 2014, apart from 2019, when they received a modest increase of 3.1 million viewers.
Last year, ratings for the show tumbled by more than 50% from the previous year, according to Nielsen.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the 94th Academy Awards rebounded slightly from last year's ceremony, which drew 10.4 million viewers — the lowest number ever.
Many award shows were forced to stage virtual or low-key ceremonies in 2021 because of the pandemic and drew unusually low audiences.
In a New York Times opinion piece, Ross Douthat says that "within the larger arc of Hollywood history … [w]e aren't just watching the decline of the Oscars; we're watching the End of the Movies."
"Even when Hollywood tries to conjure the old magic, in other words, the public isn't there for it anymore," Douthat said.
"This end has been a long time coming — foreshadowed in the spread of television, the invention of the VCR, the rise of cable TV and Hollywood's constant 'It's the pictures that got small' mythologization of its own disappearing past," he added.
The rise of Oscar contenders being streaming-only, and streaming services chipping away at conventional theater audiences, as well as providing countless other entertainment options are likely also contributing factors to the drawn-out decline in ratings.
Dolby Theatre audience members were left stunned Sunday when Will Smith strode onto the Oscars stage in Los Angeles and slapped presenter Chris Rock for joking about his wife's hair-loss condition. Smith went on to win the award for Best Actor later in the evening for his performance as Richard Williams, father of tennis superstars Venus and Serena, in "King Richard."
The Los Angeles Police Department told ABC News it is aware of the incident, but that no police report has been filed.
Following the incident, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences tweeted that it "does not condone violence of any form."
The New York Post reports that Smith may lose his Oscar following his live assault of Rock.
Citing industry insiders, the Post reports that the Academy has strict guidelines in its code of conduct.
"It's basically assault," one highly placed Hollywood source told the Post. "Everyone was just so shocked in the room, it was so uncomfortable."
"I think Will would not want to give his Oscar back, but who knows what will happen now," the insider said.
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