An audience award is typically an award at a film festival (or some other type of cultural festival or similar competition) which is selected by the audience attending the festival, rather than by the festival jury or a group of critics. Audience choice awards are given also in the field of musical theater, opera, and most recently in the pop music industry. It is a way to give the audience the chance to vote for their favorite production, performing artist or a song. The audience choice awards have equal, if not higher standing than the other awards given by any jury or a committee, because they express the choice of a much larger group rather than a small jury.
A well-known example of audience awards are those given out at the Sundance Film Festival, which is one of the leading independent film festivals in the world. Sundance first awarded audience awards in 1989, and now has separate audience awards for dramatic, documentary, and world cinema. These awards have become among the most important awards granted at the festival. The first Sundance Audience Award winner was Steven Soderbergh's Sex, Lies, and Videotape, whose success at Sundance produced a studio bidding war, and which then became the first hit film to come out of the Sundance festival. The Audience Award came to be seen as a better indicator of potential commercial success than the juried awards.
A different example is the Independent Lens Audience Award, in which the television viewing audience is invited to rate each episode of the PBS independent film series (through online voting), and an award is given to each season's best rated episode.
Other winners are as follows: ABBA, Celine Dion, Toto Cutugno, Dana International, Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson, Ruben Studdard, Fantasia Barrino, Taylor Hicks, Jordin Sparks, David Cook, Kris Allen, Lee DeWyze, Scotty McCreery, Phillip Phillips, Candice Glover, Caleb Johnson, Bianca Ryan, Salome, Lulu, Josh Kaufman, Tessanne Chin, Danielle Bradbery, Cassadee Pope, Jermaine Paul, Javier Colon, Conchita Wurst
Some popular awards shows, such as the Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards and People's Choice Awards use polling or online voting by a viewing audience to make selections, although these awards are typically not limited to an audience that has attended a specific festival or viewed a specific set of film or television programs. There are also other ways for voting: a message vote for all the live stream TV shows, and with an anonymous vote right after the end of a competition round (opera and musical theater competitions). In all cases, the audience evaluates the contestants based on their personal taste and preference.
- List of film awards#Audience Awards
- List of Sundance Film Festival award winners
- Angoulême International Comics Festival Prize Awarded by the Audience
- Benjamin Craig and Lee Tatham, Sundance a Festival Virgin's Guide: Surviving And Thriving at America's Most Important Film Festival (Cinemagine Media Publishing, 2003), ISBN 978-0-9541737-2-2, p. 71 (excerpt available at Google Books).
- Craig and Tatham, p. 55-56.
- Caryn James, "Hollywood Breathes In The Spirit of Sundance", New York Times, Sunday, February 2, 1997.
- Kevin Allman, "Independent Lens at Five", Beyond the Box Online, vol. 28 (Winter/Spring 2007).
- Independent Lens - About the Audience Award (retrieved June 3, 2009).