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The Oscars on Sunday night drew wider audiences than last year, when viewership dipped to a record low, but interest remained depressed am...

The Oscars on Sunday night drew wider audiences than last year, when viewership dipped to a record low, but interest remained depressed amid disruptions to TV and movie viewing habits.

The 94th annual awards show drew 15.4 million viewers on ABC and a 3.2 rating among adults 18-49, according to a preliminary Nielsen report released Monday on ABC. Early results showed a 56% improvement across the 9.85 million people who watched last year’s eventaccording to ABC, even though the show was still the second least-watched Oscar on record.

Initial viewership figures shift in the days following the broadcast to account for West Coast audiences as well as live and outdoor viewing.

The TV show took a bizarre turn more than two hours later, when Will Smith took the stage and slapped Chris Rock in the face for telling a joke about his wife. Mr. Smith then returned to his seat and less than an hour later won the Best Actor award.

Early data did not indicate whether there was an increase in viewership after the slap, which immediately ricocheted across the internet.

Organizers have been desperate to reverse a year-long decline in viewership for the Oscars, which saw viewership plummet 58% last year. For to arouse interest, they’ve hired comics Regina Hall, Amy Schumer and Wanda Sykes to host a hostless show since 2019; relegated some awards to a pre-recorded segment rushing which still clocked in at over 3.5 hours; and invited fans to vote on Twitter for their favorite movie (“Army of the Dead” by Zack Snyder).

Diffusion peaked in 1998, when 55.2 million viewers tuned in to watch “Titanic” win the awards, and has struggled to maintain its cultural relevance ever since. Awards shows have taken an extra hit during the pandemic, but had previously been criticized for being too white, too long, too politicized and too boring. The audience for the Grammy Awards, which will be held this weekend, fell by 53% for a new low Last year; NBCUniversal even refused to broadcast this year golden globes.

The attack on Mr Smith came after Mr Rock, who was presenting the best documentary award, joked about Mr Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, and his short hair.

“Jada, I love you – ‘GI Jane 2’, can’t wait to see it, okay?” he said, referring to the 1997 film ‘GI Jane,’ which starred Demi Moore sporting a trendy haircut.

The joke caused an eye roll from Ms Pinkett Smith, who spoke of her struggles with alopecia, a disease that leads to hair loss. Mr Smith then walked onto the stage, slapped Mr Rock, turned around and returned to his front row seat. Then, using an obscenity, he yelled at the comedian to stop talking about Ms Pinkett Smith.

The slap appeared on screen, but many viewers in the United States did not hear Mr. Smith yelling at Mr. Rock because ABC cut the sound. This left many viewers wondering if the attack was real or if it was a sketch. Uncensored clips were quickly shot on the internet, leaving no doubt that they were real.

Credit…Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

Forty minutes later, Mr Smith won the best actor trophy for his role in ‘King Richard’.

He returned to the stage to receive the award – his first – and delivered a moving speech apologizing to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and fellow nominees, but not to Mr. Rock.

“I hope the academy will invite me again,” he said at the end of his speech.

the explosion Hollywood Divided. The academy said it ‘condemns Mr Smith’s actions’ and that he opened an investigation. Actor Mark Hamill called it the ugliest moment at the Oscars, while comedian Kathy Griffin said it was “very bad practice”.

Tiffany Haddish, a comedienne who co-starred with Ms Pinkett Smith in the film ‘Girls Trip’, described Mr Smith’s protective display as ‘the most beautiful thing I have ever seen’. Piers Morgan, the British television host, wrote that he felt “moved to defend“Mr. Smith.

Credit…Noel West for The New York Times

The clash rocked a show whose most exciting times earlier had included historic acting wins by Ariana DeBose from “West Side Story” and Troy Kotsur from “CODA” and a surprise appearance by rapper Megan Thee Stallion in a performance of “We Don’t Talk About Bruno,” the hit from “Encanto“, which won Best Animated Feature.

Although it aired on a broadcast network, the night underscored the upheaval in theater and traditional television. caused by streaming services and online platforms.

CODAwhich starred Mr. Kotsur as a deaf fisherman trying to relate to his hearing daughter and was picked up by Apple TV+ for $25 million after its Sundance Film Festival debut last year. was the first film from a streaming service to win a Best Picture Oscar. Jane Campion, the director of Netflix’s ‘Power of the Dog’, beat Steven Spielberg, who directed ‘West Side Story,’ to win the director’s trophy.

But the Oscars telecast continued to attract publicity attention. ABC sold out ad spots the week before the show, which featured ads from, Pfizer, Rolex, Verizon and more. Many companies have also tried to profit from the altercation between Mr. Smith and Mr. Rock by posting memes of the slap, to which marketing experts reacted with dismay.


March 28, 2022

An earlier version of this article misrepresented viewership numbers for last year’s Oscars. It was watched by 9.85 million people on ABC, not 9.6 million people.

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