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Oscars delays introduction of controversial 'popular film' category

The film academy said the new prize "merits further study."
Image: 86th Annual Academy Awards - Backstage
Oscar statuette on display backstage during the Oscars held at Dolby Theatre on March 2, 2014 in Hollywood.Christopher Polk / Getty Images file

The organization that puts on the Oscars says it will postpone the introduction of a "popular film" award that was set to make its debut at the 2019 ceremony, noting that the controversial new category "merits further study."

"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," Dawn Hudson, the CEO of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, said in a statement on Thursday.

"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," Hudson added.

The previously announced popular film category stoked backlash, with many critics arguing it effectively turned crowd-pleasing blockbusters such as this year's "Black Panther" — now the highest-grossing solo superhero film of all time — into second-class citizens.

In a letter last month announcing the change, the academy did not provide a precise definition of a "popular film," saying that eligibility requirements and "other key details" would be "forthcoming." The new award was widely seen as a bid to reverse slumping ratings for the glitzy telecast and draw a wider audience.

The film academy said it would not change course on other previously announced tweaks to the telecast, including shortening it to three hours and presenting a handful of categories during commercial breaks.

In its statement on Thursday, the group provided more specifics on that latter modification, saying that "six to eight" prizes will be handed out during commercials, with the winning moments aired later in the broadcast.