Big stars, popular films are nominated. Will audiences watch the Oscars?

Hosted by and

The Academy Awards has announced the 2023 Oscar nominees. Two movies in particular have the highest total domestic gross in Academy history. With viewership of the Oscars having fallen behind in recent years, will those popular movies bring them back? And, a quick look at the major surprises and snubs this year. 

This segment has been edited for length and clarity. 

Oscars viewership has been down

Kim Masters: This is the year of: the total domestic gross for all the nominees is higher than it has ever been in Academy history. Those two movies are “Top Gun: Maverick,” which got to about $1.5 billion and “Avatar: The Way of Water,” which is passing $2 billion and still going. 

This has been a complaint for a long time, that the ratings for the show are going down, and the Academy has been criticized for finding – what seemed to too many people – too obscure, arthouse-type movies that people didn't care about. This time, they're going to have big stars and some very popular films.

Matt Belloni: These nominations are really a gift to the academy. As we all know, the show's been struggling in the ratings: 16.6 million viewers last year, which is down significantly from the heyday, and they've got some fodder here. 

Tom Cruise will be there because he is a producer of “Top Gun: Maverick” even though he was not nominated for acting as some thought he might get. In the song category, they've got a Lady Gaga song from “Top Gun,” a Rihanna song from “Black Panther.” Those are two pretty big stars that will likely [be] at the ceremony. And just the fact that people have seen these movies, or at least some of them. “Elvis” did about $300 million at the box office. That is also nominated in a bunch of categories, and there's a chance that Angela Bassett could actually win in the Supporting Actress category. That's the first actor from a Marvel film to be nominated at the Oscars, and that's a big lure for audiences.

Not a year for streamers

Masters: This has not been a banner year for the streamers. Netflix did get into the Best Picture category with “All Quiet on the Western Front,” and I think they are very much in contention in animation with “Pinocchio,” which has already picked up a bunch of awards. But otherwise, it's not going to be like when Apple got it for “CODA” there. They just aren't in the game that much, the streamers.

Belloni: No, and it looks like this will be yet another year that Netflix has not been able to capture that Best Picture prize despite spending so many billions of dollars on movies over the past five to seven years and all these lavish campaigns. 

The number of streaming nominations is actually down significantly this year. 37 last year, and only 19 this year. Obviously “CODA” and “Power of the Dog” from Netflix last year got a ton of nominations. There isn't that all category-contender type among the streamers this year. 

I think “All Quiet on the Western Front” is probably the biggest contender among the streamers. And that's the big change. 

I think that is in this time where the movie theater business is so challenged. That is a statement by the Academy saying, “Listen, these are movies, primarily that played in theaters and they're honoring movies that are successful in theaters like ‘Top Gun,’ ‘Everything Everywhere All at Once,’ and ‘Elvis’ – these movies that made an impression on audiences in theaters.”

A good year for representation?

Masters: This was not a great year, once again, for women. No women nominees in the directing category. Sarah Polley did get her movie “Women Talking.” It's the Best Picture contention. 

But a good year in some ways for representation, especially the breakthrough of “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” That's been a real storybook success. Nobody would have imagined the movie would do that kind of business. Nominated in several categories, including Best Picture, and of course, Michelle Yeoh, very much in contention in a tough category of Best Actress.

Belloni: That's really the race to watch, I think. Cate Blanchett from “Tár” versus Michelle Yeoh in “Everything Everywhere.” Could go either way. I've seen some pundits saying that  this will be sort of a career topper for Michelle Yeoh, who has never won an Oscar. This will be Cate Blanchett third. But a lot of Academy voters really love “Tár” and it got a bunch of nominations, and this could be the way to honor that film.

Masters: Yes. It's going to be in more than one category. [And] are we honoring this person for their legacy? Or are we rewarding someone who hasn't had that kind of recognition in the past?



Joshua Farnham