The Oscars by the Numbers

Does The King’s Speech, Best Picture front-runner for the 83rd Academy Awards on ABC this Sunday, have the oomph to ignite viewership for the telecast past the 41.7 million from 2010? (This was when The Hurt Locker snagged the top prize.)

Certainly movies with a larger box office can positively impact the overall ratings. Case in point: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, which leads our decade-long track, with 43.5 million viewers in 2003. But 2007 winner No Country for Old Men dipped to 32 million—the lowest results since 1953.

There are some exceptions, of course. But minus any breakout contenders this year (e.g., Toy Story 3 for Best Picture), anticipate ratings to hover in the lower end of our tracking. However, ABC could significantly lower the median age this year thanks to the young-demo appeal of hosts Anne Hathaway and James Franco.

As for Oscar host highs and lows of the past decade, Billy Crystal hit the high note in 2004 while Jon Stewart posted the weakest stats in 2008.