This year's annual Academy Awards is turning out to be the least-watched Oscar show in 20 years.

Preliminary TV ratings released Monday by Nielsen Media Research reported the show is 14 percent lower than the least-watched ceremony ever.

The previous least-watched Oscars ceremony was in 2003, when only 33 million viewers tuned in for the show. Nielsen said overnight ratings are also 21 percent lower than last year and the lowest on record in at least 20 years.

The more accurate fast national ratings have been delayed by Nielsen and should be released later today.

The three-hour-plus show hosted by Jon Stewart ABC - who broadcast the show- and producers unsure of whether the show would even take place until the writers strike was resolved Feb. 12. This left producers and organizers scrambling at the last minute with preparations and marketing ideas for the show.

The weak ratings for Sunday's broadcast came as no surprise, given that most movies showcased this year , generated little enthusiasm among moviegoers, in spite of drawing outstanding reviews from critics.

Meanwhile, the highest-rated Oscar telecast during the past five years was in 2004, when The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King won best picture. The show was seen by 43.5 million viewers and received a 15.3 rating among adults 18-49. From 2005-2006, viewership declined and then spiked slightly in 2007 when The Departed took home the evenings top award.

This year, brothers Joel and Ethan Coen's No Country for Old Men, considered the frontrunner going into the ceremony, lived up to expectations by taking home four Oscar awards : Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor for Javier Bardem.

In accepting the Best Director honor, Joel Coen recalled the experience of making movies alongside his brother since childhood.

What we do now doesn't feel that much different from what we were doing then, Joel Coen said. We're very thankful to all of you out there for continuing to let us play in our corner of the sandbox.

France's Marion Cotillard won Best Actress for La Vie en Rose, Britain's Daniel Day-Lewis won Best Actor for There Will Be Blood and compatriot Tilda Swinton took home Best Supporting Actress for Michael Clayton.