The planned Popular Film Oscar is still in consideration as The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is hoping that its introduction will boost viewership ratings for the broadcasted ceremony. Initially, part of the changes that the organization was planning to execute, the "outstanding achievement in popular film" accolade was supposed to give blockbusters a chance to nab a non-technical award.
The planned move was quickly met with criticisms from people in the industry, causing the organization to backpedal on it, but not fully tossing out the idea. Instead, the Academy said that it will "seek additional input regarding this category." Now, new information comes to light with regard to the Popular Film Oscar as the Academy admits that introducing the category was part of their effort to entice people to tune in to the televised ceremony.
Variety reports that during the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences event held at the EnergaCamerimage Film Festival in Bydgoszcz, Poland, the organization addressed some of the pressing matters concerning the industry including the controversial Popular Film Award. President John Bailey revealed that the highly divisive category could still happen in an effort to boost ratings for the televised ceremony, which have been continuously dipping the last few years. Citing 1929's affair where the Academy gave out two best picture accolades for the "box office hit" Wings (William Wellman) and the critically praised Sunrise (F.W. Murnau), the executive said that having the Popular Awards “seemed like a good idea." However, due to the backlash they got, "the board reconsidered and tabled it – which is not to say that the idea is dead. Even after a stake was driven through its heart, there’s still interest.”
Board of governors member Carol Littleton added that previous winners such as The Shape of Water and Moonlight “are not widely distributed so TV audiences have not seen many of the nominated pictures” resulting to the general viewing audience having little to no interest to tune in the show. Despite the pattern, Bailey is optimistic for a more diversified roster of award season favorites this year, including Marvel Studios' Black Panther, Warner Bros.' A Star is Born, and Alfonso Cuaron's Roma. “It will be interesting to see how that plays out. It might give us a strong perspective on how to move forward,” he added.
This confirms theories that the introduction of the Popular Film category was nothing but a lazy way to lure people to watch the ceremony. The Academy is looking to capitalize on the public's interest on MCU, DC, and Star Wars films among others and is hoping that if some of them are in the running for an Academy Award, they'll be more inclined to catch the broadcasted ceremony. That said, with the organization seemingly motivated to somehow incorporate the category, the best they can do to lessen the blowback is to develop a strict metric system and stringent process with regard to choosing nominated movies. In its initial announcement, the Academy said that "eligibility requirements and other key details will be forthcoming."