Oscars Won’t Present New Best Popular Film Category in 2019

Academy leaves open the possibility of unveiling the category in the future, but says it “requires further discussion”

Oscars rehearsal statuettes
Oscars rehearsal statuettes / Getty Images

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced on Thursday that it will not present the Best Popular Film category at next year’s Oscars after a widespread backlash.

While the statement released left open the possibility of the new category being introduced in future Oscar telecasts, the Academy said that the new category “merits further study.”

“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,” said Academy CEO Dawn Hudson. “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.”

Last month, the Academy took dramatic steps to overhaul the annual awards ceremony, adding a category designed to salute “outstanding achievement in popular film.” Other changes announced by the Academy included plans to shorten the awards telecast’s length by presenting some Oscars during the commercial break and moving the 2020 Oscars to Feb. 9, the weekend after the Super Bowl. 

But the changes sparked a backlash from Academy members and the public alike. Actor Rob Lowe responded to the announcement with a sarcastic tweet, announcing that the “film business passed away” with the announcement of the new category, while critics and audiences who were hoping for a Best Picture nomination for Marvel’s “Black Panther” began predicting that the award would be seen as a way to give the film an Oscar while shutting it out of other categories.

“As for a ‘popular film’ award, it is a ghetto and will be perceived that way,” wrote critic Mark Harris. “‘Oh, It’s lovely that the rabble went to ‘Black Panther’ – here’s a special fake Oscar it can win!’ This is just a head-slapper on all counts.”

The Academy noted in its statement that the new category’s announcement was too fast for an industry that is likely already preparing its awards campaigns.

“The Academy recognized that implementing any new award nine months into the year creates challenges for films that have already been released,” the statement read. “The Board of Governors continues to be actively engaged in discussions, and will examine and seek additional input regarding this category.”