Looks Like the “Popular Film” Oscar Category Is on Hold for Now

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Looks Like the “Popular Film” Oscar Category Is on Hold for Now

Turns out Twitter might actually be good for something.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is postponing a new category designed to honor “popular film,” which was initially set to be introduced at the 91st Academy Awards in 2019, as THR reports.

The Academy announced the move in a press release, posted in full by writer Mark Harris on Twitter Thursday.

The statement acknowledges that “implementing any new award nine months into the year creates challenges for films that have already been released,” and explains that the Academy “will examine and seek additional input regarding this category,” which will not be presented at the upcoming 91st Academy Awards, honoring the films of 2018.

“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 in the statement. “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.”

Last month, the Academy released a vague tweet introducing a category to honor “achievement in popular film,” to the confusion and ridicule of awards trackers everywhere.

Details like who would vote on the new category and what exactly qualifies as “popular” film according to the Academy were missing in the initial announcement, as was any explanation on why the Oscars needed a “popular film” category in the first place. Paste’s Garrett Martin compiled some of the funniest Twitter reactions to the announcement in a recent list.

When the new category was announced, skeptics suggested that this might be a ratings ploy by the Academy following flagging ratings. Some even speculated that ABC, which broadcasts the ceremony and is owned by Disney, pushed the new category to boost the Oscar chances of titles like Marvel’s Black Panther, or that the Academy was using the new category to ease the backlash that would ensue from a milestone film like Black Panther missing out on a nomination.

For an Oscar obsessive, it’s a relief to know that the Academy is at least listening to some of its most passionate viewers. A “popular film” category would diminish the spectacle that Oscar viewers tune in for without attracting too many casual fans anyway.

While the backlash seems to have paused the “popular film” category, at least for now, it seems that the Academy is not walking back some of the other controversial changes it has planned for next year’s ceremony.

Most notably, not all categories will be televised as they have in the past. In an attempt to cut down the ceremony telecast to three hours, the statement mentions that six to eight categories will be presented “during commercial breaks,” the winners of which will have these career-defining moments “edited and aired later in the broadcast.”

This might actually be the more troubling development for next year’s ceremony. Part of what makes the Oscars special is its choice to broadcast all “technical” categories, even if most viewers can’t tell the difference between “Best Sound Mixing” and “Best Sound Editing,” and the show runs four hours or even longer. We should at least honor the illusion that the Oscars are here to honor the best in film, even if an illusion is all that is.

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