Oscars to add 'best popular film' award, shorten gala
LOS ANGELES - AFP
Organizers of the Oscars, which is under fire for plummeting ratings and accused of elitism, on Aug. 8 announced the creation of a new category to honor top blockbusters and said they would shorten the ceremony to attract more viewers.
For 2019, organizers are hoping to produce a "more accessible" three-hour show by presenting some of the awards during commercial breaks, Academy president John Bailey and chief executive officer Dawn Hudson told members.
Edited excerpts of those presentations will then be shown during the broadcast.
They will also create a new award for "outstanding achievement in popular film," a response to accusations that for the past decade or more, the Academy has honored arthouse fare only seen by limited audiences.
The Academy did not offer specifics about how the category will be defined.
The final reform will be to hold the ceremony earlier in the calendar year in 2020, it will shift to Feb. 9. In 2019, the date already set, Feb. 24, will be maintained.
"We have heard from many of you about improvements needed to keep the Oscars and our Academy relevant in a changing world," Bailey and Hudson said in a letter to members. "The board of governors took this charge seriously."
But the new measures were immediately met with criticism, with some suggesting the new "popular film" would mean critical and box office hits like "Black Panther" might be snubbed in the race for the coveted best picture statuette.
"The last thing that the Academy should now be doing is creating a reactionary new category that is, in effect, the Popular Ghetto," said Owen Gleiberman, the chief film critic for Hollywood news outlet Variety.
"Instead, it should be working to take off its blinders and make more room in the big tent for every movie that comes out. That's how to win viewers back to the Oscars without trashing the essence of what movies are."