Academy Adds Popular Film Category, Sets Three-Hour Oscar Broadcast

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The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is instituting sweeping changes to the Oscar broadcast as it tries to find ways to bolster ratings for the flagging telecast.

In a message to its membership, the group’s president John Bailey and its CEO Dawn Hudson said the broadcast will now include a new category for outstanding achievement in popular film.

The organization’s initial announcement raised more questions than it answered. The Academy later issued a statement clarifying eligibility concerns. Films can be nominated for both outstanding achievement in popular film and for the Academy Award for best picture. The new category will be introduced this coming year, at the 91st Oscars.

The message may have been muddled, but the Academy’s intentions were clear. At one point in its history, Oscar voters routinely named blockbusters such as “Titanic” or “Gladiator” as the year’s best. That’s changed. Recent best picture victors such as “Moonlight,” “Spotlight,” and the 2018 winner “The Shape of Water” have been firmly ensconced in the arthouse world, whereas well-reviewed hit films such as “Guardians of the Galaxy” or “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” have only been recognized for their technical achievements.

The Oscar broadcast has also been slagged as a tedious affair, one that is larded with awards, speeches, musical performances, and montages. To that end, the Academy’s board of governors announced on Wednesday that future broadcasts will be three hours long.

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