LOS ANGELES, March 14, 2023 (BSS/AFP) - Oscars television ratings increased for the second year in a row, as 18.7 million viewers tuned in to watch hit sci-fi "Everything Everywhere All At Once" dominate a well-reviewed ceremony, the ABC network said Monday.
With Jimmy Kimmel back as host, and a number of bona fide blockbusters among the nominated films including "Top Gun: Maverick" and "Avatar: The Way of Water," organizers had hoped that the 95th Academy Awards would draw audiences back.
The average audience figure marks a 12 per cent increase from last year's telecast -- which was mostly remembered for Will Smith slapping Chris Rock on stage.
The Oscars' all-time low came in 2021, when a stripped-back pandemic-era edition of Hollywood's biggest award show drew around 10 million.
The upward trend is a welcome shot in the arm for live award shows, which have been shedding viewers more broadly as they compete for eyeballs with streamers and social media highlight clips.
Still, Sunday's ratings figure is the third-lowest in Oscars history.
The gala, which featured big-name musical performances from Rihanna and Lady Gaga, was generally praised by critics.
Following the previous year's infamous slap, the Hollywood Reporter said Sunday's gala -- notable for several tearful winners' speeches -- was "mercifully low on drama, movingly high on emotion."
Variety called the show "familiar" but "tasteful."
But The New York Times said the lack of any significant upsets -- or on-stage violence -- made the show "a shrink-wrapped, anodyne exercise" which "stuck safely to the script."
"Everything Everywhere," a word-of-mouth smash hit that has grossed $100 million at the global box office, won seven prizes including best picture, as its star Michelle Yeoh became the first Asian woman to win best actress.
Yeoh plays an exhausted Chinese laundromat owner embroiled in a battle with an inter-dimensional supervillain -- who happens to be her daughter.
The ratings issued by ABC on Monday are preliminary, with final data due to be published Tuesday.