The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is making some major changes to next year's Oscar ceremony, with the standout being a brand new category honoring "outstanding achievement in popular film." This means that mainstream tentpole movies like Black Panther, Ready Player One, and Mission: Impossible - Fallout have a shot at winning in a non-technical category.
The Academy Awards, also known as the Oscars, exists to honor excellence in cinematic achievements, dating all the way back to its first ceremony in 1929. Voted on by members of the Academy, the Oscars celebrates and recognizes a variety of filmmaking components, from acting and directing to production design and cinematography. Originally a radio broadcast, the ceremony has evolved and adapted over the years, introducing its first televised ceremony in 1953, removing niche categories (like Best Title Writing and Best Dance Direction), and responding to criticisms based on race and gender. Now, the Academy is adding its first new category since Best Animated Feature (introduced in 2001), as well as implementing major scheduling changes, courtesy of the Academy's Board of Governors.
The Board of Governors released an official statement to members of the Academy stating the changes that will take effect during next year's 91st Oscar ceremony, announcing the changes via their official Twitter, and courtesy of THR. The biggest takeaway from their statement is the introduction of a brand new category honoring "outstanding achievement in popular film." However, they did not specify any additional details pertaining to the category, including when it will be implemented, nor did they define the requirements a film would need to qualify as a "popular film." Other changes include a shorter, three-hour telecast to make the ceremony "more globally accessible" and an earlier date of February 9 that will implemented during the 92nd ceremony in 2020.
Easily the most controversial change made to the Oscars is the omission of certain categories being aired via the ceremony's live broadcast. The Board of Governors announced that certain categories will be presented during commercial breaks (noting that said categories will be determined at a later date), and that the footage "will then be edited and aired later in the broadcast."
The Academy has come under fire over the years for neglecting certain movies that some audiences believed deserved more recognition. In response, the Academy began allowing up to 10 Best Picture nominees, making room for movies that might have otherwise been overlooked. That said, the Popular Film category may actually end up being a disservice to certain tentpole movies that the Academy does not consider "worthy," affecting their chance at Best Picture in favor of a newer, objectively inessential category.