LOS ANGELES (AFP) - Next month's Oscars will include a new "fan favourite" prize for the year's most popular film as voted for by Twitter users, organisers said on Monday (Feb 14), seeking to lure viewers back to a ceremony that has seen audiences plummet.
The announcement - which will be made during the 94th Academy Awards telecast on March 27 - comes after several crowd-pleasing blockbusters, including Spider-Man: No Way Home and James Bond film No Time To Die, failed to earn Oscar nominations in major categories, including best picture.
Their omission raised fears that many movie fans will skip the show.
But any film released in 2021 can be voted for in the new category using the Twitter hashtag #OscarsFanFavorite or via the Academy's website, raising the chances of a blockbuster being honoured on the night.
Television ratings for the Oscars have dramatically declined in recent years.
Last year's edition, which honoured mainly smaller, arthouse movies such as best picture winner Nomadland, was watched by just over 10 million viewers - a 56 per cent decline from 2020, which was already a record low.
As Oscars voters have increasingly drifted away from more mainstream fare, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has toyed with various reforms to boost the ceremony's popularity.
In 2018, organisers proposed a "popular film" Oscar to honour blockbuster movies such as Star War films or Marvel superhero films that rake in millions at the box office.
But it swiftly shelved those plans after critics ridiculed the move, and the new "fan favourite" award will not be a formal Oscar category.
Ms Meryl Johnson, the Academy's vice-president of digital marketing, said the move would "help build an engaged and excited digital audience leading up to this year's ceremony" and allow fans to "engage with the show in real-time, find a community and be a part of the experience in ways they've never been able to before".
Twitter's Sarah Rosen said the collaboration was "an exciting way to further engage movie fans and celebrate their love and passion for the films released this year".
Movie fans can vote up to 20 times per day until March 3, and three randomly selected winners will be invited to present an Oscar at next year's ceremony.
A separate poll will ask voters to chose their favourite "movie cheer moment". The five most popular choices - billed as scenes where "audiences couldn't help but erupt into cheers in theatres" - will be shown during the Oscars.
Next month's Oscars will return to the ceremony's traditional Dolby Theatre venue in Hollywood, after the pandemic-affected 2021 Academy Awards were held at a Los Angeles train station.
They are being held later than usual, reportedly to avoid clashing with February's Winter Olympics in Beijing and Sunday's Super Bowl in Los Angeles.