Why was there such a lack of interest in this year's Academy Awards, leading the kudoscast to deliver its smallest audience on record? It's the movies, stupid, says producer Gil Cates, pointing out that in recent years, ratings for the show have matched the popularity of the nominated films. "I [produced] the show the year Titanic made a billion dollars and [this year's best-picture nominees] together probably didn't reach $300 million," he says. "Only Juno did really well. That's the major reason."

Cates, who was a main negotiator for the successful Directors Guild contract, also blames the writers' strike. "Less people were watching the networks and less people were watching the promos," he says, pointing out that the Grammys audience similarly shrank more than 20 percent.

There is some good ratings news to be had, however: Cates says that those who bothered to tune in for the Feb. 24 gala stayed tuned in for the entire show. - Ileane Rudolph