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What a difference a month makes. Back in early August, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced that it would be adding a new category for achievement in Popular Film to the Oscar ceremony. Fans of the addition were few and far between, and the backlash against it was swift. We've been waiting for more clarification on how exactly the category will work and what qualifies a movie for it, but all of those questions have now been rendered irrelevant, at least for now. The Academy is postponing the introduction of the category and it will not be a part of the 91st Academy Awards next year.
After a meeting of the board of governors, the Academy announced that it will not be instituting the new award at next year's ceremony and is shelving the Popular Film category for the time being. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the Academy said that it plans to continue discussing the idea of the category and seeking input about it. The Academy did not, however, give any sort of timeframe for when the future of the category will be decided or when it could be implemented. As far as the reasoning for the postponement of the Popular Film category, the Academy cited that introducing the new award this late in the year created challenges for films released earlier in 2018. Basically, it wasn't fair to introduce it in August. So at least for the 91st Academy Awards next year, there will be no Popular Film category.
The Academy hasn't been forthcoming about how the new category would work, and with awards season now beginning, it was under pressure to provide some clarity. This move gives the Academy a lot more time to iron out those rules, or come up with them if they weren't explicit in the first place. One of the biggest questions since the introduction of this category has been how it will affect Black Panther's Best Picture chances, the thought being that the Popular Film category could act as something of a consolation prize and once again deny a superhero film a chance at the night's top honor. Maybe the Academy saw the writing on the wall because this move avoids the potential backlash that could ensue in such an occurrence. Black Panther is gunning for Best Picture, and now it's an all or nothing game.
While acknowledging that more discussion is needed, the Academy's public posture is one of steadfastness in its desire to implement this category at some point. Perhaps it will be back in a year or two, but you have to wonder if these discussions will ultimately result in the category quietly fading away and never returning. Given the backlash, it seems unlikely that the category would ever be received warmly by many in the industry, regardless of the criteria they come up with. Even if the Academy does decide to drop the idea for good, there are still plenty of other new categories that could be added instead that would honor more popular films and potentially help the broadcast's ratings.
The Academy will be keeping the other changes it announced to reduce the length of the broadcast by presenting some awards during commercial breaks and airing them in edited form later in the night. We'll see how the changes shake out, and if they have any impact on ratings, when the 91st Academy Awards airs on February 24. There are still plenty of likely Oscar contenders coming to theaters this year, and you can check them out in our premiere guide.