The Academy Awards aren’t known for making big changes to their categories, voting system, or live show, but with viewership on a steady decline (the 2018 Oscars hit an all-time low of 26.5 million viewers), it’s time to try something new. Just announced this week, the Academy has introduced a handful of changes to the 2019 and 2020 awards shows, including a new category that will celebrate popular movies. Come on Fast and the Furious 13!
Following the re-election of former president John Bailey, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ board of governors sent out a letter this week to its members outlining the changes.
THERE WILL BE A NEW POPULAR CATEGORY
Already being dubbed the ‘Popcorn Oscar,’ the Academy has introduced a new award for Outstanding Achievement in Popular Film. The announcement stated that details and eligibility requirements are still TBA, but it seems like the new category is the Academy’s answer to getting more eyeballs back on the screen by including films that movie goers actually go to the theatre to see. The Hollywood Reporter notes that viewership is higher during years when the films nominated for Best Picture are more popular in theatres, a factor that likely heavily influenced the new category in hopes of increasing viewership.
MOVIES CAN WIN BOTH MAJOR CATEGORIES
So, what does this new Popular Category mean for the highly coveted Best Picture award? In an addendum posted by the Academy following their initial announcement, it was confirmed that one film can win both Outstanding Achievement in Popular Film and the Academy Award for Best Picture. It will be interesting to see how the two categories play out in terms of nominee and winner overlap.
THE SHOW WILL BE CONDENSED TO THREE HOURS
We’ve never gotten to the end of an Oscars broadcast and thought, “gee, that flew by!” The bloated awards show is pairing down its broadcast to three hours, with time being cut by handing out some of the 24 awards during commercial breaks. Winners will reportedly still get their time to shine on TV, with the Academy stating that “the winning moments will then be edited and aired later in the broadcast.”
THE SHOW WILL AIR EARLIER IN THE YEAR
The 2019 Academy Awards are already scheduled to air on Sunday, February 24, but the following year’s show will now air on Sunday, February 9, 2020. The new date won’t affect eligibility requirements or voting, but the move is likely aimed towards battling viewer fatigue over awards season (the Golden Globes and SAG Awards both air in January).
Unfortunately, this week’s announcement doesn’t include adding a category for best stunt performance, a change many in the industry have been demanding for years.
The move causing the most controversy is the Academy’s introduction of the Outstanding Achievement in Popular Film. While the new award will give opportunities to films that have often been excluded from the Oscars, namely action, superhero and comedy films, many are criticizing the addition, saying it cheapens the integrity of the Academy Awards.
Giving out an Oscar for Best Popular Film is like giving out a Nobel Prize for Hottest Abs
— Jess Dweck (@TheDweck) August 8, 2018
As a longtime Oscar watcher who’s always genuinely (and un-ironically) loved the Academy Awards, this is a sad day for me. All of these changes from @TheAcademy feel horribly misguided.
— Tomris Laffly (@TomiLaffly) August 8, 2018
anyone who’s remarking on all this with “lol who cares the Oscars suck anyway,” ok! but remember basically the only thing still encouraging studios to fund non-blockbuster films is…the Oscars
— David Sims (@davidlsims) August 8, 2018
Remember the Oscars in 2016 when #MadMaxFuryRoad won editing, costume, makeup, prod design, sound editing/mixing. Every time it won LIVE I thought “Holy shit can it actually beat Spotlight for best pic?”. That thrill is what makes the Oscars great. Now that’s gone
— Zack Sharf (@ZSharf) August 8, 2018
It’s also astounding that the Academy will seemingly jump through all these hoops and disrespect countless film professionals before they’ll consider … starting the Oscars at 6pm?
— Joe Reid (@joereid) August 8, 2018
On the other hand, being popular doesn’t necessarily mean a movie shouldn’t still be viewed as an impressive achievement in filmmaking.
The 91st Academy Awards will air live, Sunday, February 24, 2019 at 8:30PM ET on CTV.