Academy Awards cancel plans for 'popular film' category after much backlash and confusion
Wochit Entertainment/YouTube

There won't be an Oscar category for "popular films" after all. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (the group behind the Oscar ceremony)has announced that it has canceled plans to add the new category, saying that the new category "merits further study." The decision came just one month after the Academy announced that it would be adding the category to the 2019 Academy Awards, but would reveal the category's definition and qualifiers at another time. 

Academy CEO Dawn Hudson commented in a statement: “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.”

The news that the Academy was adding a category for outstanding achievement in the popular film got mostly negative reactions from industry people and the general public. It did not help matters that the Academy made the announcement without defining what it meant by "popular film." The biggest concern was that a film's box-office sales, not an artistic achievement, would be too much of a qualifier to be nominated in the "popular film" category.

Critics of the idea also said that creating a separate category for "popular films" implied that the nominees for Best Picture were not expected to be "popular films." Although the Academy had said that films eligible for in the "popular film" category would also be eligible for Best Picture nominations, there was too much confusion and backlash over the idea for the Academy to continue its plans to add the category. Critics of the idea also speculated that the "popular films' category was an attempt by the Academy to increase the audience for the Oscar ceremony, whose ratings reached an all-time low in 2018, with 26.5 million U.S. viewers.

The Academy is still moving forward with its announced plans to drop certain categories from the Oscar telecast.The winners of the dropped categories will be announced during the commercial breaks, and the show will list the winners sometime during the show. Although it has not been revealed yet which categories are getting dropped, the Academy announced that there will be six to eight dropped categories that will be rotated every year. The Academy said it "will collaborate with the show producer(s) to select these categories." The Academy is also standing firm on its announcement that it will strictly limit the Oscar telecast to three hours. The changes will go into effect for the 91st annual Academy Awards ceremony, which is set to take place at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles on Feb. 24, 2019. ABC will have the U.S. telecast of the show. 

Meanwhile, the Academy has announced the honorees of the 10th Annual Governors Awards, to be held Nov. 18 at the Ray Dolby Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland Center in Los Angeles. The Honorary Awards will go to publicist Marvin Levy, composer Lalo Schifrin and actress Cicely Tyson, and the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award to producers Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall. Kennedy is the first woman to win the Thalberg Memorial Award.

The 92nd annual Academy Awards ceremony will be held on Feb. 9, 2020. The Oscar ceremony has traditionally been held in late February or early March as the culmination of the movie awards season. The Grammys are usually held in early-to-mid February. It remains to be seen how the Grammys and other award shows will be affected by the Oscar ceremony being pushed up to early February. In the meantime, the Academy has announced important dates for the 92nd Academy Awards:

Nov. 16, 2019 – Governors Awards
Jan. 2, 2020 – Nominations voting opens
Jan. 7, 2020 – Nominations voting closes
Jan. 13, 2020 – Oscar Nominations Announcement
Jan. 27, 2020 – Oscar Nominees Luncheon
Jan. 30, 2020 – Finals voting opens
Feb. 4, 2020 – Finals voting closes
Feb. 9, 2020 – 92nd Academy Awards