The Academy backtracks on ‘Most Popular’ Oscars category

A row of Oscars.
A row of Oscars. Dean Treml / AFP/Getty Images

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) has announced its “popular” Oscar category “merits further study” and will not present the new category at the upcoming 91st Academy Awards.

The AMPAS stated that “while remaining committed to celebrating a wide spectrum of movies,” it recognized that adding any new award nine months into the year “creates challenges for films that have already been released.”

The board will be seeking input regarding the new category going forward.

READ MORE: The Academy introduces new Oscar category and statue: Outstanding Popular Film

“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,” said Academy CEO Dawn Hudson. “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.”

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The new category was announced in the beginning of August.

John Bailey, the newly re-elected president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, said in an email to members on Aug. 8 that the board of governors met to approve three major changes; a new category to honour popular films, promising a brisk three-hour ceremony and a much earlier air date in 2020.

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Ratings for the 90th Academy Awards fell to an all-time low of 26.5 million viewers, down 19 per cent from the previous year and the first time the glitzy awards ceremony had fewer than 30 million viewers since 2008. It also clocked in at nearly four hours, making it the longest show in over a decade.

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The board had said that they were “committed to producing an entertaining show in three hours.” In the letter, they explained that this will be achieved partly by “present[ing] select categories live, in the Dolby Theatre, during commercial breaks (categories to be determined).” Those categories will not be removed from the telecast; instead, “the winning moments will then be edited and aired later in the broadcast.”

Everyone from film critics to celebrities criticized the new category once it was announced.

“The film business passed away today with the announcement of the ‘popular’ film Oscar,” actor Rob Lowe wrote on Twitter. “It had been in poor health for a number of years. It is survived by sequels, tent-poles, and vertical integration.”

Lord of the Rings veteran Elijah Wood tweeted, “Best Popular Film? oof.”

The Last Fall director Matthew A. Cherry said Black Panther would definitely win.

The 2019 ceremony will air Feb. 24, while the 2020 ceremony will move to Feb. 9.

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