Oscars Changes: New Popular Film Category, Shorter Run Time, New Airdate

There are some changes coming to the Academy Awards.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ board of governors have announced some key moves that they believe will allow for more mainstream blockbusters to be eligible for award recognition and will attract more viewers to the broadcast.

Get ready for a Outstanding Achievement in Popular Film Oscar. Seriously. The Academy has long been criticised for overlooking acclaimed box office hits in favour of smaller, more “dramatic” fare. They attempted to rectify the problem, upping the Best Picture nominations to 10 in 2009. While it worked for a little while, soon there were simply more of the usual Oscar-style films, many barely seen by the wide public, up for the big award. The bottom line is that it shouldn’t matter, should it? Best Picture is the best picture, regardless of whether it cost $200 million to produce and was made by Disney or if it’s an indie crafted with loose change.

It now appears the Academy thinks this is the way to go. Well, to be clear, it looks like they’ve caved in to pressure from a certain massive company. Variety reports that the Disney-ABC Television Group were a big factor behind the changes, pressuring the Academy after steeply declining viewing ratings. ABC, you see, is the Academy’s exclusive broadcaster until at least 2028. It also shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise to learn that much of the pressure to include a Popular Film category came from Disney, a mammoth blockbuster-churning studio.

The details of this new category are still apparently being ironed out by the Academy. The organisation released the following statement:

“While the details for a popular film category are still being finalized, a single film is eligible for an Oscar in both categories— Outstanding Achievement in Popular Film and the Academy Award for Best Picture. The new category will be introduced this coming year, at the 91st Oscars. In creating this award, the Board of Governors supports broad-based consideration of excellence in all films.”

Another change for the Oscars is a more rigid aim for a three-hour telecast.  This is an understandable move, and one that should have been made much earlier. More audiences are willing to tune in if they know their entire evening won’t be taken up. Alas, while it’s good to be getting a tighter show, it means that viewers at home will not be seeing a number of awards handed out in “live” format. It has been announced that certain categories will be handed out during commercial breaks and that they’ll be edited down and aired later in the telecast.

And finally, there’s a new airdate. The 92nd Oscars will take place in the US on Sunday, 9 February 2020, moved up from the previously announced 23 February.

The Academy has been attempting to change things up in the last few years, particularly on the diversity sector after the controversy sparked up by #OscarsSoWhite. The Academy expanded its membership roster in a big way, inviting 928 new members in June.

‘Black Panther’ could be recognised as a ‘Best Popular Film’ contender.