Oscars Changes Add a “Popular Film” Category, Cuts Down to Three Hours

Oscars - Best Popular Film Category

The Academy's board of governors approves new changes for next year's Oscars, including a three-hour telecast and the addition of new categories.

Next year’s Oscars are going to go through a few shakeups.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have sent a message to their members detailing the changes, including a “three-hour Oscars telecast” which requires airing “certain categories” during commercial breaks, to be edited and aired later on.

The change most certain to raise eyebrows, though, is the inclusion of a new award category for “outstanding achievement in popular film.” It’s almost certainly a bone thrown to the Dark Knight crowd (see also: the 2011 decision to expand Best Picture to more than five nominees), and the increasing divide between the blockbusters potential Oscars audiences most likely see, and the arthouse indies that tend to get nominated. 

This change raises a lot of questions, particularly relating to how the Academy will define ‘popularity.’ Is it just big blockbusters? What if they happen to be also good and awards-worthy? What about smaller indies? Will they be disqualified from Best Picture if they become surprise hits (like Moonlight or Lady Bird)? There’s also a low-level condescension inherent in the creation of this category, implying that popular blockbusters, by their very nature, are incapable of becoming awards-worthy. (Just look at Mad Max: Fury Road.)

The message also announces a change in airdate – the 92nd Oscars will air on Sunday, February 9, 2020. 

Read the Academy’s statement to members in full below:

Dear Member,

Last night, the Board of Governors met to elect new board officers, and discuss and approve significant changes to the Oscars telecast.

The Board of Governors, staff, Academy members, and various working groups spent the last several months discussing improvements to the show.

Tonight, the Board approved three key changes:

1. A three-hour Oscars telecast

We are committed to producing an entertaining show in three hours, delivering a more accessible Oscars for our viewers worldwide.

To honor all 24 award categories, we will present select categories live, in the Dolby Theatre, during commercial breaks (categories to be determined). The winning moments will then be edited and aired later in the broadcast.

2. New award category

We will create a new category for outstanding achievement in popular film. Eligibility requirements and other key details will be forthcoming.

3. Earlier airdate for 92nd Oscars

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

The 91st Oscars telecast remains as announced on Sunday, February 24, 2019.

We have heard from many of you about improvements needed to keep the Oscars and our Academy relevant in a changing world. The Board of Governors took this charge seriously.

We are excited about these steps, and look forward to sharing more details with you.

John Bailey and Dawn Hudson

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About Clint Worthington

Clint Worthington is a Chicago-based film critic and podcaster. A member of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle, you can find his other film work at Consequence of Sound, Crooked Marquee and UPROXX. He is also the co-host of Nathan Rabin's Happy Cast.

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