Oscars Postpone Adding Popular Film Category

by Kim Boateng Posted on September 7th, 2018

Los Angeles, California,  USA: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences – the organization that puts on the Oscars – says it will postpone the introduction of a “popular film” award that was set to make its debut at the 2019 ceremony, noting that the controversial new category “merits further study.”

“There has been a wide range of reactions to the introduction of a new award, and we recognize the need for further discussion with our members,” Dawn Hudson, the CEO of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, said in a statement on Thursday.

“We have made changes to the Oscars over the years — including this year — and we will continue to evolve while also respecting the incredible legacy of the last 90 years,” Hudson added.

The previously announced popular film category stoked backlash, with many critics arguing it effectively gave an advantage to crowd-pleasing blockbusters such as this year’s “Black Panther” — now the highest-grossing solo superhero film of all time.

The irony is that this year’s telecast may not have needed such a prize in the first place. “Black Panther,” the highest-grossing film so far, is almost certain to be nominated in several categories including best picture, and it may even win Marvel Studios its first Oscar in a category like best costume design, where Ruth E. Carter’s stunning outfits tower over the rest of the field. If ABC executives had sought to find room in the telecast for superhero movies, they needn’t have worried, and the removal of a popularity prize will only strengthen the case for “Black Panther” to be judged not just as a blockbuster but as a pivotal work of art.

And there are more big films to come. While the best picture field may still include intimate entries like “Roma,” a black-and-white foreign-language film directed by Alfonso Cuarón (who won best director in 2014 for “Gravity”), you can also count on it to make room for “A Star Is Born,” a big-studio crowd-pleaser starring Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga as singing megastars. Warner Bros. is bullish on the box-office chances of this Oct. 5 release, and many Oscar pundits believe it could go all the way. Had the popularity trophy remained, the two top contenders for it would surely be “Black Panther” and “A Star Is Born,” but when those same films will be fighting it out for best picture this year, who needs the lesser contest?

But it’s not all about the backlash, according to the Academy. It’s also about the timing.

“The Academy recognized that implementing any new award nine months into the year creates challenges for films that have already been released,” the Academy said.

In a letter last month announcing the change, the academy did not provide a precise definition of a “popular film,” saying that eligibility requirements and “other key details” would be “forthcoming.” The new award was widely seen as a bid to reverse slumping ratings for the glitzy telecast and draw a wider audience.

Forthcoming changes include limiting the awards show to three hours.

The 91st Oscars will be awarded on Feb. 24.

Other changes to the 91st Oscars held on Feb. 24, 2019 will be moved forward, including restructuring and shortening the length of the telecast to three hours. To honor all 24 award categories, six to eight categories will be presented live, in the Dolby Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center in Hollywood, during commercial breaks, he said.

The winning moments will then be edited and aired later in the broadcast. Selected categories will be rotated each year. The academy said it will collaborate with the show producers to select these categories.

The academy is a professional honorary organization with the stated goal of advancing the arts and sciences of motion pictures. It is known around the world for its annual Academy Awards, the Oscars.

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