Los Angeles - The Oscars are adding a new category to honor popular films and promising a brisk three-hour ceremony and a much earlier air date in 2020.
John Bailey, the newly re-elected president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and film Academy CEO Dawn Hudson said in an email to members Wednesday morning that the Board of Governors met Tuesday night to approve the changes.
Ratings for the 90th Academy Awards fell to an all-time low of 26.5 million viewers, down 19 percent from the previous year and the first time the glitzy awards ceremony had fewer than 30 million viewers since 2008. Hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, the ceremony also clocked it at nearly four hours, making it the longest show in over a decade.
"We have heard from many of you about improvements needed to keep the Oscars and our Academy relevant in a changing world," Hudson and Bailey wrote.
In an effort to keep future ceremonies to three hours, the awards will be presented live and during commercial breaks. Specific categories will be determined at a later date, but the winning moments will be edited and aired in a later broadcast.
The film academy is also shifting the date for the 92nd Academy Awards to earlier in the year. The 2019 ceremony will still air on 24 February, while the 2020 show will move to 9 February.
The addition of a popular film category caused the most chatter Wednesday morning, as a clear effort to attract a larger audience by honoring bigger and more seen films. Bailey and Hudson said eligibility requirements will be determined at a later date. It wasn't specified whether it would be added for the 91st Academy Awards this February
The new film category quickly drew negative attention, with "popular film" becoming a trending topic on Twitter by Wednesday afternoon.
Five Came Back author Mark Harris tweeted that the popular film award, "Is a ghetto and will be perceived that way."
Actor Rob Lowe tweeted that "The film business passed away today with the announcement of the "popular" film Oscar. It had been in poor health for a number of years. It is survived by sequels, tent-poles, and vertical integration."
The addition of the popular film category, a clear effort to attract a larger audience to the ABC broadcast by honoring bigger and more seen films, led many to wonder whether a film like Black Panther would be ineligible for best picture and relegated to the popular film award because of its size and success, or lead to inadvertent segmenting by film academy voters.
Harris wrote on Twitter that while the academy might dismiss public reaction to the changes, the organization has broadened and diversified its membership in recent years and might find less support than they expect internally.
"It truly is something that in the year Black Panther, a movie made just about entirely by and with black people, grosses $700 million, the Academy's reaction is, 'We need to invent something separate...but equal.'"