In their infinite wisdom, the film Academy has decided to make some substantial changes to its annual Oscars ceremony. Beginning in 2019, a new category celebrating “Outstanding Achievement in Popular Film” materializes due to popular demand. This is the first new Oscar introduced since 2001, when they saw fit to award an Oscar statuette to the best animated film of the year.
In a letter sent to members, the Academy also announced that the telecast will be trimmed to under three hours. They will achieve this by announcing some categories during commercial breaks, and then they will edit those categories into the ceremony later. This year’s telecast nearly crossed the four-hour mark, and it stands as the least-watched Oscars telecast of all time. Changes are needed, and I applaud the Academy for rising to the occasion and attempting to right the ship.
The Academy also announced that the 92nd Oscars telecast (the 2020 ceremony) has moved up to Sunday, February 9, 2020, from the previously announced February 23. The 91st Oscars telecast airs on Sunday, February 24, 2019.
The game-changer here is clearly the addition of the “Outstanding Achievement in Popular Film” category, which has been a long time coming. Every year quality action films, comedies, horror movies, and thrillers get overlooked in favor of controversy-of-the-moment or fashionably trendy, award-magnet films. This year, with the release of Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, Mission: Impossible – Fallout, and A Quiet Place (among others), it feels like especially good timing to introduce a fan-favorite film category.
Of course, no idea is perfect, and many are pointing out the inherent flaws in this new Oscar category. Who decides which movies are ‘good enough’ to be in the running for Best Picture? Does this mean that Black Panther (for example) has no shot at being nominated for Best Picture? What qualifies as ‘popular,’ and does this category pander to the masses while cheapening the prestige of the Academy Awards? Is this a desperate action taken to appeal to a side of the industry that brings in loads of cash, but typically doesn’t haul in awards? With great power comes great responsibility, and this category addition rings as a hollow gesture to some movie fans.
As posted by The Hollywood Reporter, here is the Academy’s message to its members in full:
Last night, the Board of Governors met to elect new board officers, and discuss and approve significant changes to the Oscars telecast.
The Board of Governors, staff, Academy members, and various working groups spent the last several months discussing improvements to the show.
Tonight, the Board approved three key changes:
1. A three-hour Oscars telecast
We are committed to producing an entertaining show in three hours, delivering a more accessible Oscars for our viewers worldwide.
To honor all 24 award categories, we will present select categories live, in the Dolby Theatre, during commercial breaks (categories to be determined). The winning moments will then be edited and aired later in the broadcast.
2. New award category
We will create a new category for outstanding achievement in popular film. Eligibility requirements and other key details will be forthcoming.
3. Earlier airdate for 92nd Oscars
The date of the 92nd Oscars telecast will move to Sunday, February 9, 2020, from the previously announced February 23. The date change will not affect awards eligibility dates or the voting process.
The 91st Oscars telecast remains as announced on Sunday, February 24, 2019.
We have heard from many of you about improvements needed to keep the Oscars and our Academy relevant in a changing world. The Board of Governors took this charge seriously.
We are excited about these steps, and look forward to sharing more details with you.
John Bailey and Dawn Hudson