HOLLYWOOD — Could this be “Black Panther’s” big chance?
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is making room for the year’s biggest blockbusters to enter the Oscars race.
On Wednesday, the organization announced a number of impending changes to the Oscars, including its intention to add a new category for achievement in popular film.
The details regarding eligibility in this category have not been announced — and the Academy did not say when the change would take effect — but the new award’s purpose is clear: make sure the box office’s biggest money makers have a chance to walk away with Oscars gold.
There have been instances in the past where this has already happened, of course.
Films like “Titanic,” “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King,” and “Forrest Gump” ruled the box office in their respective years and also earned best picture awards. But recent years have seen some of the year’s top-grossing films either earn awards solely in technical categories or get shut out of the Oscars completely. (One of the few exceptions to this was “American Sniper,” which grossed $350 million domestically and earned a best picture nomination.)
Last year’s best picture winner, “The Shape of Water,” earned $63 million domestically and topped out at No. 10 in box office rankings during its time in theaters, according to figures from Box Office Mojo.
The Academy’s motivation for extending honors to so-called popular films is a hope that the new award will help attract viewers. The most-watched telecast in Oscars history was in 1998 when “Titanic” won.
Last year’s telecast hit an all-time low in ratings with just 26.5 million viewers, a drop of 20% from the previous year.
Other changes set to take place, according to the Academy: a stricter adherence to a three-hour telecast and an earlier airdate for the 92nd annual Oscars.
The Academy had said the date of the 2020 ceremony would be February 23. That has changed to February 9.