LOS ANGELES (MarketWatch) -- TV ratings for Sunday night's 79th Academy Awards inched up from a low point reached a year ago, but ABC did not break out of a slump for the annual telecast. A unit of Walt Disney Co., ABC reported that Oscars were seen in 23.5% of all the nation's households, with a total of 39.9 million viewers. The Oscars' household share, or percentage of televisions turned on and tuned to the awards show, was 37%, ABC said. That's up slightly from a year ago, when the show captured 23.1% of all households, or 38.9 million viewers, with a 35% share. But it marks the third straight year that Oscar ratings have dipped below the 40% share level. Prior to the 2005 show, Oscar ratings had not dipped below that threshold in the last decade, except at the 2003 telecast when the U.S. was bracing for war with Iraq. Like last year, this year's crop of honored films wasn't terribly popular with audiences, though box-office this time around was up slightly. This year, the top-grossing film among the best-picture nominees was "The Departed," which took the top prize and Director Martin Scorsese also won after missing out with five previous nominations for the directing award. The movie has made $131 million in U.S. receipts and now is out on DVD The Oscar telecast has been trending down in ratings since the 2004 show, when "Lord of the Rings: Return of the King" swept 11 statuettes. That film ranks second in all-time global box office, with more than $1 billion in receipts.