Patrick Goldstein, writing for The Los Angeles Times recently wrote, "Ratings are crumbling for the Oscars®, and award shows in general, because the Era of the Mass Event is drawing to a close." He maintains this is now the Era of Niches.
Hundreds of television channels are available. Thousands of Web sites about movies and television, most with video and Flash graphics are on the Internet, cell phones, iPods, etc. Then, there is a movie released on CD almost each day, as well as a new video game. All these things compete for leisure time, a TV viewer's attention, and for moviegoers' dollars.
No longer do the majority of Americans tune in to a mass event such as "Miss America," "Miss USA," or even a speech by the president of the United States. I am one who never watches any of the above.
Goldstein wrote, "With the exception of the Super Bowl, which seems immune to anything short of a civil war, even the biggest sports and show biz events find their ratings in decline." I used to tune in for the Super Bowl half-time show, but the quality of that event is in decline, so I don't now.
American Idol is the preferred TV show of most Americans, easily trouncing even the Winter Olympics, another endangered mass TV event. So-called "reality shows" reign supreme across the airwaves. Mindless fodder for simple minds.
The ratings for the Oscar broadcast, a mass event, dipped again this year, the lowest since 1987 when CHICAGO took the best-picture award. Not many had seen one of the top nominated films before the Oscars were awarded March 5, and few have since.
Millions of moviegoers did not see the challenging 1969's MIDNIGHT COWBOY or 1999's AMRICAN BEAUTY before the Oscars either, but they headed to the theaters after those films were crowned "Best Picture." Not this year. However, in all fairness, all the movies except CRASH were released after October 2005.
Still at this post, a month after the Oscars, the five films have grossed only $242M collectively, or an average take of $48M per movie. A trivial amount for a U.S. Box Office take. Compare that with STAR WARS: EPISODE III's $380M.
Only BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN (23rd) and CRASH (49th) have cracked the top-50 list. Four movies that have scored in the top 50, having received at least one Oscar nod, are WALK THE LINE (17TH), CINDERELLA MAN (42nd), MEMOIRS OF A GUISHA (45th), and WALLACE & GROMIT (47th). With results like this, we analysts have a right to ponder, "What's up with all this?"
Box Office figures from boxofficemojo.com