The Academy Awards has backflipped on the introduction of its new “popular” Oscar category, postponing plans it made last month for a mainstream award.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) announced on Friday (AEST) that the newly planned award “merits further study”, and will not be presented at the next Academy Awards.
It was set to be introduced at the 91st Oscars in February 2019.
AMPAS said “while remaining committed to celebrating a wide spectrum of movies,” the organisation recognised that implementing a new award nine months into the year “creates challenges for films that have already been released”.
It also will continue to discuss the idea for the new award and “will examine and seek additional input regarding the new category,” Academy CEO Dawn Hudson said.
The backflip came just a month after the board originally made the announcement it would recognise “outstanding achievement in popular film”.
The decision was met with a swift backlash, with the award’s proposal being called an “insult to movie goers” and “a huge step back for genre film”.
It was widely suggested the move was a bid to improve dwindling television audiences for the event, rather than recognising artistic merit.
The US audience for the March 2018 ceremony was 26.5 million viewers, the smallest in the awards’ 90-year history.
“There has been a wide range of reactions to the introduction of a new award, and we recognise the need for further discussion with our members,” Ms Hudson said.
“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.”
The announcement last month was met with an immediate wave of criticism, with many seeing the award as being aimed at undeserving blockbuster movies like The Avengers and Star Wars.
Actor Rob Lowe took to Twitter to condemn the move, saying “The film business passed away today”. Lord of the Rings star Elijah Wood was also unhappy, posting simply: “Best popular film? Oof”.
The Academy in August added to confusion by not detailing how it would determine eligibility for which films would compete in the popular film category, as opposed to the traditional best picture race.
In recent years, Academy voters have chosen independent films like Moonlight and The Shape of Water, as best picture winners, rather than box office hits like Black Panther.
Other plans for the 2019 Oscars will move forward, including shortening the telecast and not featuring all 24 award categories live, instead running six to eight categories during ad breaks.