Los Angeles (AFP) -
The audience for this year's Oscars plummeted by more than half to a new record low average of 9.85 million domestic viewers, broadcaster ABC said Monday.
The whopping 58.3 per cent tumble from last year's already record-low 23.6 million had been widely expected for Hollywood's biggest night, after other award shows held during the pandemic also suffered precipitous declines.
With movie theaters shut for most of the year and several blockbuster films starring big-name actors postponed, a less familiar crop of nominees were competing at Sunday's ceremony, where Chloe Zhao's 'Nomadland' was the big winner.
The ratings drop also continues an overall multi-year downward trend for the Academy Awards, which were above 43 million as recently as 2014.
Among those who did not tune in was Anthony Hopkins, who unexpectedly won best actor in what was the night's final prize, after producers decided to reorganize the categories.
The Oscars typically end with best picture, and the lack of an acceptance speech at the show's grand finale was criticized by many viewers as anti-climactic.
'At 83 years of age, I did not expect to get this award, I really didn't,' said Hopkins in video posted to his Instagram page from Wales on Monday morning.
'I want to pay tribute to Chadwick Boseman who was taken from us far too early,' he added, referring to the late 'Black Panther' star who had been expected to win best actor for his final role in 'Ma Rainey's Black Bottom.'
This year's unorthodox Oscars ceremony was moved from a Hollywood theater to a glammed-up Los Angeles train station to abide by strict Covid-19 protocols, and reunited A-listers for the first time in more than a year.
Reviews were mixed, with several critics complaining about the show's lack of humor and musical performances.
Variety slammed the decision to go without a host for a third straight year, calling the ceremony 'lost and guide-less.'
But Deadline called the 'relatively fast-paced and deeply personal ceremony' a 'true Hollywood reinvigoration.'