The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced Thursday it no longer plans to present the “popular film” category at next year’s Oscars, after the plan sparked widespread criticism from industry insiders.
The Academy said it will continue to discuss the new award with its members, but for now it is putting the idea on hold.
“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,” Academy CEO Dawn Hudson said in a statement. “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.”
The reversal comes after the organization announced the new award on Aug. 8, as part of an overhaul aimed at shoring up the broadcast’s declining ratings.
The Oscars currently hand out awards in 24 categories, but the average viewer isn’t interested in many of the technical awards.
In an effort to inject new energy into the show, the Academy said it planned to shorten the telecast to three hours by handing out awards in six to eight categories during commercial breaks. Other changes included moving the date of the broadcast up a couple of weeks and adding the popular film category.
Miki Turner, an assistant professor at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, told Urban Hollywood 411 last month she didn’t think the changes went far enough.
“They should shorten it to two hours and eliminate a lot of the minor and tech categories by featuring those people in a film clip to be shown during the show,” Turner said.
But many industry insiders disagreed, accusing the Academy of lowering the bar to ensure fan-favorite films such as Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War receive a nomination.
Actor Rob Lowe tweeted: “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.”
Los Angeles Times film critic Justin Chang described the new category as “pandering.”
While Rolling Stone critic Tim Grierson called the change “galling,” adding that it would diminish “the very glamour and prestige” of the Academy Awards.
Earlier this year, 26.5 million viewers watched the Oscars, marking an all-time low, according to Nielsen. Those numbers also represented a 19 percent decline from the previous year.
As an example of the show’s ratings challenges, 43.7 million viewers watched in 2014. However, viewership has continued to dipped every year since then.