Preliminary ratings indicate that the audience for Sunday night's Academy Awards ceremony on ABC was down slightly from last year, with an average of 37.9 million tuning in during the primetime period between 8:30 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. In addition, 24.9 million viewers watched the 90-minute red-carpet arrivals beginning at 7:00 p.m. Ratings for the period after 11:00, when the Best Picture win for Argo was announced, were not immediately available, but they are expected to lower the overall average. In addition the numbers don't include major markets on the West Coast. A year ago the annual special, hosted by Billy Crystal, averaged 39.34 million viewers for the entire telecast. However, analysts caution that the final result may shift radically when all the numbers are in. If the preliminary ratings hold, they would represent a severe disappointment to the network and the Academy. This year's contenders were far more popular at the box office than last year's, when the Best Picture Oscar went to The Artist, whose total ticket sales at the time of the telecast was only $31 million.
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