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Audience for Oscars rebounds slightly to 18.7 million

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Whether it was the lingering drama of The Slap or the prominence of blockbusters in the best picture race, a bigger audience was lured back to the Oscars this year.

The 95th Academy Awards, which aired Sunday night on ABC, was viewed by an estimated 18.7 million, according to preliminary Fast National Live+Same Day numbers released Monday by ABC. That’s up 12% from last year’s show, but still low compared to most years.

The evening’s main counter programming, the season finale of “The Last of Us” pulled in 8.2 million viewers across HBO and HBO Max. The show began at 9 p.m. EDT, an hour after the Oscars started.

A frequent criticism of the Oscars is that the show celebrates films that don’t have wide appeal. This year was markedly different, however, with two billion-dollar blockbuster sequels in the mix: “Top: Gun Maverick” and “Avatar: The Way of Water” were both nominated for best picture. Angela Bassett was

nominated for a Marvel movie, a first. Even the winning film, A24’s “Everything Everywhere All At Once,” made over $100 million at the global box office and played in theaters for months.

For many years, the Oscars were often the second most-watched television program of the year behind the Super Bowl. Until 2018, the Oscar telecast had never slipped below 30 million viewers, according to Nielsen records. The high- water mark was the 55 million people who watched “Titanic” clean up in 1998.

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