The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced Wednesday a few changes to future Oscars telecasts: The televised ceremony will be limited to three hours; the 2020 ceremony will be bumped up two weeks to Feb. 9; and, to the disdain of many, a new category will recognize achievement in popular film.
“We have heard from many of you about improvements needed to keep the Oscars and our Academy relevant in a changing world,” president John Bailey and CEO Dawn Hudson wrote in an email sent to Academy members. “The Board of Governors took this charge seriously.”
The changes were determined in a meeting held Tuesday night, where the board also reelected Bailey.
The Academy Awards have suffered from low ratings in recent years. This year’s nearly four-hour telecast, hosted again by Jimmy Kimmel, dropped 19 percent from the previous year to just 26.5 million viewers, according to the Hollywood Reporter — an all-time low. Bailey and Hudson added that shortened telecasts aim to deliver “a more accessible Oscars for our viewers worldwide.” Certain categories — which have yet to be announced but will presumably include those honoring technical achievement — will be presented during commercial breaks.
Eligibility requirements for the new category have not been publicized, either, but several critics have accused the academy of pandering and lessening the stature of the best picture category.
“Look we already tried the Blockbuster Awards and they didn’t work,” tweeted Richard Lawson, chief film critic at Vanity Fair.
Atlantic staff writer David Sims called the changes “an embarrassing disaster,” adding that the new category sounds “both incredibly vague and incredibly lame, but refusing to broadcast technical awards is much much worse and more depressing.”