While still saying they remain “committed to celebrating a wide spectrum of movies,” the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences put the controversial Popular Film category on hold announcing today it will not be part of the upcoming 91st Academy Awards. The Academy added they recognized what everyone else did, that adding such a major new category just nine months into the Oscar season made little sense. And, of course, the membership wasn’t thrilled about it either.
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In a statement, Academy CEO Dawn Hudson noted, “There has been a wide range of reactions to the introduction of a new award, and we recognize the need for further discussion with our members. We have made changes to the Oscars over the years—including this year—and we will continue to evolve while also respecting the incredible legacy of the last 90 years.”
What she politely soothed over is that the wide range of reactions could be measured from “furious” to “ambivalent, but this award is so silly.” Those supporting the new category are still a small minority among the now 8,000 members. “Further study” may mean convincing a majority of the membership the change would be a good thing or quietly putting the category permanently to bed in a press release sent out late on a Friday afternoon Pacific Time in May. At this point, I’d bet on the later.
ABC cannot be happy about this change as it will put more pressure on the network and the Academy to find a host for the 91st Oscars who actually can bring in viewers not that anyone seriously thought the Popular Film category would have created that much of a blip in the ratings. Hudson’s point on other changes this year was clearly intentional and there are now more details about what exactly is in the works.
The Academy’s announcement revealed that six to eight categories will now be announced live off screen and then included in the show in a shortened form later. You can be sure three of those are the Short categories (Live Action, Animated, Documentary) and the Sound categories (Sound Mixing, Sound Editing). If the Academy and ABC agree to push Best Documentary and Best Foreign Language Film to the “taped” option you can expect another gigantic uproar from the membership. And if FLF is included from media around the globe (just a heads up to anyone paying attention).
The organization also made the rare move of revealing the 2020 voting calendar almost a year early so studios and other awards season events can avoid key dates. They are as follows:
Saturday, November 16, 2019: Governors Awards
Thursday, January 2, 2020: Nominations voting opens
Tuesday, January 7, 2020: Nominations voting closes
Monday, January 13, 2020: Oscar Nominations Announcement
Monday, January 27, 2020: Oscar Nominees Luncheon
Thursday, January 30, 2020: Finals voting opens
Tuesday, February 4, 2020: Finals voting closes
Sunday, February 9, 2020: 92nd Oscars
Additionally,sStarting in 2020, the Scientific and Technical Awards will move to June, as the technologies honored do not represent achievements within a specific awards year.
The big news with these dates is that voters will have only five days to submit their ballots for both the nomination and final voting phases. Traditionally, both phases have been 10 days. Clearly, the change to electronic voting has informed AMPAS that most voters have decided earlier rather than later. Moreover, the earlier nominations announcement will take place on a Monday after years of being announced on a Tuesday.
It would be smart to pay attention to the fact nomination voting ends on Tuesday, Jan 7. The Golden Globes has taken place the first weekend of January for the past two years which has given the HFPA major publicity clout before AMPAS members have voted. It’s possible they may try to convince NBC to move the telecast into December to keep that level of debatable industry importance or…not.
As for films that were considered players in whatever the Popular Film category was going to be it’s a moment for studio and producer reflection. “Black Panther” is still a major contender for a Best Picture nomination and both Marvel and Disney were never going to stop fighting for that honor. Other films such as “Crazy Rich Asians,” “Mission: Impossible – Fallout,” “A Quiet Place,” “Mary Poppins Returns” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” will have to determine whether a major Best Picture push is viable this season.
The 91st Academy Award will take place on Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019 and telecast live on ABC.