Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences cancels idea of ‘popular film’ category

September 6, 2018

by Carla Hay


Just one month after announcing that there would be a new Oscar category for outstanding achievement in popular film, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has canceled plans to add that category, which would have debuted at the 2019 Academy Awards. In a statement, Academy CEO Dawn Hudson essentially admitted that the “popular film” category hadn’t been thought out very well, saying that “we recognize the need for further discussion with our members.” The would-be category was controversial from the beginning, with most of the criticism saying that the new “popular film” category would make box-office revenues part of the criteria to qualify a movie for an Oscar nomination in that category. Because the Academy had not revealed how it would define “popular” films for this category, that vagueness also caused confusion.

Adding to the confusion: The Academy had said that films eligible in the “popular film” category could also be eligible for the Best Picture category.  Critics of the idea didn’t like the probability that the “popular film” category would cause some messy or unfair overlap with hit films that also could be considered for nominations in the Best Picture category.  There was also backlash because adding a “popular film” category at the Oscars would imply that nominations for the Best Picture category shouldn’t be “popular” films.

Here is a press release from the Academy that addresses the decision to drop the idea of the “popular film” category and announces key dates for the 2020 Oscar ceremony:

While remaining committed to celebrating a wide spectrum of movies, the Academy announced today that it will not present the new Oscars category at the upcoming 91st awards. The Academy recognized that implementing any new award nine months into the year creates challenges for films that have already been released.  The Board of Governors continues to be actively engaged in discussions, and will examine and seek additional input regarding this category.

“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.”

Changes to the 91st Oscars (2019) include 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®, during commercial breaks. The winning moments will then be edited and aired later in the broadcast.  Selected categories will be rotated each year.  The Academy will collaborate with the show producer(s) to select these categories.

The Board of Governors also voted to move up the date of the 92nd Oscars telecast to Sunday, February 9, 2020, from the previously announced February 23. The date change in the timeline will not affect awards eligibility dates or the voting process.

The key dates for the 2019 awards season are as follows:

Saturday, November 16, 2019 Governors Awards
Thursday, January 2, 2020  Nominations voting opens
Tuesday, January 7, 2020  Nominations voting closes
Monday, January 13, 2020  Oscar Nominations Announcement
Monday, January 27, 2020  Oscar Nominees Luncheon
Thursday, January 30, 2020  Finals voting opens
Tuesday, February 4, 2020  Finals voting closes
Sunday, February 9, 2020  92nd Oscars

Starting in 2020, the Scientific and Technical Awards will move to June, as the technologies honored do not represent achievements within a specific awards year.

The 91st Oscars will be held at the Dolby Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center® in Hollywood, and will be televised live by the ABC Television Network. The Oscars also will be televised live in more than 225 countries and territories worldwide.

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