Blockbuster category in Oscars draws flak

LOS ANGELES • This Oscar is feeling grouchy, alarmed by plunging television ratings.

On Wednesday, the organisation behind the Academy Awards said it would add a category for blockbuster films and shorten the telecast, in a bid to turn things around.

But the move to honour box-office winners was immediately assailed by some film critics. Manohla Dargis of The New York Times called the change "stupid, insulting and pathetically desperate".

Other pundits noted that a category for "outstanding achievement in popular film" could backfire.

What if a movie many see as a legitimate Best Picture contender - the worldwide smash Black Panther (2018), for instance - receives a nomination for the populist Oscar but not for best overall movie?

Does that mean Black Panther and films like it are second-class citizens?

The category will make its debut at the next Oscars ceremony on Feb 24. The academy's board also voted to keep the telecast to three hours.

This year's show, in March, stretched nearly four hours.

A third change will not take effect until 2020, the academy said. The telecast will be held earlier in the year in an attempt to speed up Hollywood's awards season, which in recent years has stretched to four solid months of ceremonies.

By the time the Oscars roll around, there is little suspense about who will win what.

The academy was forced to revise its Oscar script after a record low of 26.5 million people watched this year's telecast, a nearly 20 per cent drop from a year earlier.

As recently as four years ago, the Oscars had an audience of 43.7 million viewers.

Money is also on the line, for the Oscar telecast generates 83 per cent of the academy's US$148 million (S$202 million) in annual revenue.

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 10, 2018, with the headline 'Blockbuster category in Oscars draws flak'. Print Edition | Subscribe