It may be time to dress Oscar in a cape. The people behind the Academy Awards announced Wednesday that they will be adding a category to the program that recognizes an “outstanding achievement in popular film.” It did not elaborate on how it would distinguish a popular film, telling voters that “eligibility requirements and other key details will be forthcoming.” The Academy revealed the news in a letter to its board of governors, which included changes to its broadcast.
The ceremony, as seen on TV, will run a mere three hours when it airs on February 24th, 2019. To trim the running time, presenters will hand out a portion of its 24 statuettes during commercial breaks. The wins will be filmed and edited and broadcast later in the show. This year’s broadcast ran nearly four hours and its viewership was down by almost 20 percent year over year.
“We have heard from many of you about improvements needed to keep the Oscars and our Academy relevant in a changing world,” Academy president John Bailey and CEO Dawn Hudson wrote in a note to members. “The Board of Governors took this charge seriously.”
The changes follow increased scrutiny on the trophy toss in recent years. In addition to controversy over the dearth of people of color who are nominated for awards, spotlighted online with the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite, the industry was shook up this year by the #MeToo movement and further scrutiny on the lack of gender parity in Hollywood. The Academy has said it aims to double the number of women and minorities among its ranks within the next two years.