TV ratings and social-media stats for Sunday night's Oscars suggest host Ellen DeGeneres did more than orchestrate the world's most-retweeted selfie: The 86th Annual Academy Awards averaged 43 milllion viewers, up nearly 3 million from last year, and the most since 2004.
The show clicked from coast to coast and points in between, ABC reported, with New York City, Los Angeles, and Kansas City, Missouri, among the top-rated markets for the three hour-plus show.
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This marks the third straight year the Oscars telecast has trended upward in the Nielsens. The show, per usual, was the most-watched TV event since the Super Bowl (111.5 million). This year, it topped the Winter Olympics' opening ceremony (31.7 million), too.
On Twitter, Oscar-related posts during the telecast shot up 75 percent from last year.
Not coincidentally, Sunday's show also contained another record: The Bradley Cooper-snapped group selfie, co-starring Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep, and Jennifer Lawrence, among others, was confirmed as the most re-tweeted message ever on Twitter by Guinness World Records.
— GWR Press (@GWRpress) March 3, 2014
It also featured breakthrough wins for "Gravity's" Alfonso Cuarón, the first Latino helmer to win Best Director, and "12 Years a Slave," the first film by a black filmmaker to claim Best Picture.
But for all that, Oscar ratings tend to follow the movies and not the host, which makes Sunday's feat all the more notable.
DeGeneres's ratings came on the strength of only four $100 million-plus-grossing Best Picture nominees, down from nearly seven the year before when Seth MacFarlane, "I Saw Your Boobs" shtick and all, rode the popular slate of nominees to a Nielsen uptick.
DeGeneres did have "Gravity" going for her. The Sandra Bullock-led film was the highest-grossing movie to contend for Best Picture in three years, and more than merely show up, "Gravity" won a night-best seven awards. In that way, Sunday's Oscars were reminiscent of Billy Crystal's 2004 show, which had been the last time the telecast reached at least 43 million. That night was dominated by the blockbuster "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King."
Box-office aside, DeGeneres benefitted from some magical moments: Best Supporting Actress winner Lupita Nyong'o's emotional acceptance speech; John Travolta's profound pronunciation issues with "Frozen" singer Idina Menzel's name; Streep's shimmying with "Happy" singer Pharrell Williams. "There was a refreshing big-tent sensibility," Vulture's Matt Zoller Seitz wrote. "It was, all things considered, an unsually emotional telecast."
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In its review, Time referenced DeGeneres's running pizza gag, calling the show a "party-sized order of standard cheese pizza." "You weren't going to go to your grave craving it. It was a little bland," writer James Poniewozik found. "But nobody actively hates it, and at least there was a lot of it."
The Associated Press judged the telecast "a sleek show," and DeGeneres a "comfortably reliable" host.
The telecast marked DeGeneres's second time as Oscar host. She first emceed in 2007.