Billy Crystal, Jolie's leg boost Oscar audience

Mon Feb 27, 2012 5:11pm EST
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By Jill Serjeant

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Billy Crystal, Angelina Jolie's leg and French silent film "The Artist" brought the Oscars bouncing back from recent slack viewership, drawing a larger-than-expected 39 million TV viewers and setting social media abuzz.

Some 39.3 million Americans watched the Oscars ceremony on television on Sunday, up from the 37.6 million audience in 2011, according to preliminary ratings data.

Broadcaster ABC said it was the second largest TV audience for the Academy Awards since 2007.

The bigger audience came and stayed tuned-in despite criticism that host Billy Crystal, 63, put on an old-fashioned show, and that the big awards went to "The Artist", a film that few people have seen.

The Academy Awards also retained all of its 2011 audience in the 18-49 year-old age group prized by advertisers, and drew more women in that viewer category than last year.

The annual Oscars ceremony show is traditionally one of the most watched events on U.S. television but audiences have fallen away in the past few years, especially when blockbuster films like "Avatar" are not in the running for the biggest honors in the movie industry.

"The Artist", which has made only about $30 million at the North American box office, was the big winner on Sunday with five Oscars including best picture, best director and best actor for Frenchman Jean Dujardin.

Crystal, making his 9th appearance as Oscar host, got mixed reviews. Alessandra Stanley at the New York Times said "the whole night looked like an AARP pep rally," while Tim Goodman at the Hollywood Reporter called Crystal's efforts a "safe unfunny retro-disaster."   Continued...

Angelina Jolie arrives at the 84th Academy Awards in Hollywood, February 26, 2012.   

REUTERS/Lucas Jackson