After all the advance talk about how this might be the lowest-rated Oscar telecast of all time, it looks like this year’s ratings were 10% higher than last year’s.
If these numbers hold up, there’ll be plenty of speculation on what went right; the improvement is unexpected because this is probably the least-popular batch of Best Picture nominees ever. (You’ve got one genuinely popular movie, Slumdog Millionaire, but you’ve also got a movie that most people seem to hate, Benjamin Button, and one movie, The Reader, that was so unpopular that the best line in Jackman’s medley was “The Reader, I haven’t seen The Reader.”) But it might be that the re-formatting helped draw viewers in and keep them. One thing I got from the more intimate look of the show was that it made the evening feel a bit more like a Hollywood party, except without the booze. The choice of Jackman just re-enforced the idea that this was a gathering for movie-industry insiders. I think a lot of us like seeing movie stars looking comfortable.