Controversial Oscar Change Walked Back After Outcry

Crowd-pleasing films won't be getting their own 'popular' category—at least not yet
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 7, 2018 6:45 AM CDT
'Popular' Oscar Category Nixed for Being Not So Popular
In this Feb. 21, 2015, file photo, an Oscar statue appears outside the Dolby Theatre for the 87th Academy Awards in Los Angeles.   (Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP, File)

And the winner is … not the new Oscars category. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced a slew of changes last month to its annual awards show, among them a new "outstanding achievement in popular film" category meant to reward films perhaps not critically acclaimed but still able to draw big crowds. Not many details on voting or eligibility came with the announcement, but it was enough to cause an outcry, and that outcry has made an impact. Per the Hollywood Reporter, the academy said Thursday the new category will be postponed and won't debut at the 91st awards show on Feb. 24 so it can "examine and seek additional input." The group said in a statement that "the Academy recognized that implementing any new award nine months into the year creates challenges for films that have already been released," the BBC reports.

But it wasn't just the timing that rankled some. The announcement met resistance from detractors who said hit movies that are also critically acclaimed—chief among them Black Panther—could lose steam for a best picture award if they were also thrown into the "popular" film category. Advocates for the move say it would spur more of the general public to watch the awards show, which has seen a nearly 40% viewership decline over the past four years. The New York Times' sources say that at a Tuesday night meeting of the academy's 54-member board, Laura Dern was steadfast in her opposition to the new category; Steven Spielberg, who is described as a board member with "enormous influence," was reportedly "uncomfortable with plans to introduce [it] at the coming Oscars." (More Oscars stories.)

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