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The Oscars add ‘Popular Film’ category, shorten telecast, move some awards to commercial breaks

The 90th Oscars hosted by Jimmy Kimmel (Ed Herrera via Getty Images)

There are some major changes coming to very next Oscars telecast and ceremony

On Tuesday night, the Board of Governors convened to re-elect current president John Bailey. No surprise there. 

The big changes came with the news that for the first time in decades the Oscars will have a new category, one that’s sure to be met with significant groans – Outstanding Achievement in Popular Film. After yet another year of dropping ratings, this attempt to secure viewership from audiences that have shelled out their money to the year’s blockbusters like Black Panther, Mission: Impossible Fallout and Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again, can be assured that ‘popular’ will now equal ‘best.’ In 2009, after The Dark Knight was snubbed in Best Picture, the Board of Governors voted to expand the Best Picture lineup to 10 nominees to help combat omissions of popular films that are often limited to technical categories. That last for two years and the board changed their minds once again and implemented a voting system that turns out 5-10 Best Picture nominees per year, a system that’s still in place today. 

So what does this mean for the actual Best Picture category? Will voters, who might very well have been planning on voting Black Panther in Best Picture, now leave it ghettoized in this new popular film category? It’s worth noting that before the creation of the Animated Feature category, only one animated ever had made it into Best Picture – 1991’s Beauty and the Beast. It was nearly a decade later before its own category was created but since then only two animated films have been nominated for Best Picture – and only in the first two expanded years of 10 nominees (2009’s Up and 2010’s Toy Story 3). Eligibility requirements and other key details will be forthcoming.

The Board of Governors have also committed to a 3-hour telecast. Even though ad rates for the Oscars are still among the highest in television, the length of the Academy Awards has always been the butt of jokes, often by the host themselves. One of the ways the show intends to shorten the running time won’t be asking winners to make quicker speeches but to move some categories to commercial breaks. Other awards shows implement this already, like the Tonys or the the MTV Movie Awards, and it’s likely that categories such as Live Action Short (and its kind) will be moved there. 

The third big change won’t involve next year’s Oscars but the 92nd Academy Awards. They’re moving up from their previously announced date of February 23rd to February 9th. That is going to result in a seismic shift in every other awards show, nomination date and give pause for every studio in how they dole out their fall and winter releases. 

Here is the full text of the Academy’s message to its members:

* * *

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 Erik Anderson

Erik thanks his mother for his love of all things Oscar, having watched the Academy Awards together since he was in the single digits; making lists, rankings and predictions throughout the show. This led him down the path to obsessing about awards. Much later, he found himself at GoldDerby, led by Tom O’Neill and then migrated over to Oscarwatch (now AwardsDaily), headed up by Sasha Stone before breaking off to create AwardsWatch. He is a member of the International Cinephile Society, GALECA (The Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics), the International Press Academy and is the founder/owner of AwardsWatch.

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