By Rachel F. Elson
Updated March 24, 2003 02:11 AM

Sunday night’s Academy Awards ceremony, it seems, was all talk and no action.

As Oscar winners sounded off about peace and politics, the show itself fell victim to the war, with preliminary ratings down 15 percent from last year, the Associated Press reports.

Several outspoken actors took their moment at the podium to express their hopes for peace. Adrien Brody, who got the Best Actor nod for his portrayal of a Holocaust survivor in “The Pianist,” drew a standing ovation when he told the audience, “Whatever you believe in, if it’s God or Allah, may he watch over you and let’s pray for a peaceful and swift resolution.”

Although final national numbers haven’t been released, ABC estimated that 37 million people watched the awards show. That could be a record low: Since record-keeping began in 1974, the only two times Oscar audiences have been that small were in 1986, when 37.8 million viewers watched “Out of Africa” take home the Best Picture prize, and the following year, when only 37.2 million people tuned in to see “Platoon” win.

Preliminary figures gave the Oscars a 25.5 household rating and 37 audience share in Nielsen Media Research’s overnight measure of the 55 biggest cities.

ABC notes that the decision to forgo red-carpet arrivals may have whittled down the audience; in addition, the ratings spike for 24-hour news networks covering the war in Iraq surely had an impact. “It was such a special instance, it’s hard to speculate what it was beyond the war coverage,” ABC chief researcher Larry Hyams tells AP.