Oscars add popular film category, sets earlier 2020 date

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LOS ANGELES — The Oscars are adding a new category to honor popular films and promising a brisk three-hour ceremony and a much earlier air date in 2020.

John Bailey, the newly re-elected president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and film Academy CEO Dawn Hudson said in an email to members Wednesday morning that the Board of Governors met Tuesday night to approve the changes.

Ratings for the 90th Academy Awards fell to an all-time low of 26.5 million viewers, down 19 percent from the previous year and the first time the glitzy awards ceremony had fewer than 30 million viewers since 2008. Hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, the ceremony also clocked it at nearly four hours, making it the longest show in over a decade.

"We have heard from many of you about improvements needed to keep the Oscars and our Academy relevant in a changing world," Hudson and Bailey wrote.

In an effort to keep future ceremonies to three hours, the awards will be presented live and during commercial breaks. Specific categories will be determined at a later date, but the winning moments will be edited and aired in a later broadcast.

The film academy is also shifting the date for the 92nd Academy Awards to earlier in the year. The 2019 ceremony will still air on Feb. 24, while the 2020 show will move to Feb. 9.

The addition of a popular film category caused the most chatter Wednesday morning, as a clear effort to attract a larger audience by honoring bigger and more seen films. Bailey and Hudson said eligibility requirements will be determined at a later date. It wasn't specified whether it would be added for the 91st Academy Awards this February.

Oscar viewership is often tied to the box-office muscle of the big nominees. The 2018 best picture winner, "The Shape of Water," had grossed $57.4 million in the United States by the time the awards aired and $63.9 million total. The biggest Academy Awards audience on record came in 1998, when the blockbuster "Titanic" was named best picture.

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