by Ray Keating
Commentary
DisneyBizJournal.com
August 13, 2018

More than any other movie studio, Disney has to be pleased with the Academy Awards’ announcement of a new Oscar category.

As the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences watches the relevance and television viewership of the Oscars continue to decline, it made an announcement covering changes in the telecast to make it a “more entertaining show.” But most notable was the Academy’s announcement of a new award: “We will create a new category for outstanding achievement in popular film. Eligibility requirements and other key details will be forthcoming.”

In its article on the changes, the Hollywood Reporter notedwhat seemingly everyone outside of Hollywood has long known: “More than the length of the telecast or the name of the host, Oscar ratings have been shown to correlate with the popularity of the nominated films among the general public. And the gulf between what the public buys tickets to see and what the Academy nominates and awards has never been greater.”

While some in Hollywood would no doubt wear this gulf as a badge of honor, the difference between what audiences appreciate and what gets recognized by the Academy is not so much about what’s popular versus what’s artistic. Rather, not always but too often, it’s about a Hollywood being self-indulgent, and more interested in politics and making social statements to the exclusion of interesting and appealing storytelling. Keep in mind that there was a time when Hollywood managed to make quality films that respected the audience. Crazy, right?

As for the change itself, the studio most likely to benefit from a “popular film” Oscar category, again, clearly is Disney.

While we still don’t know how this category will be exactly defined, consider the Disney 2018 slate of movies that could grab nominations. Black Panther(February) and Avengers: Infinity War(April) have to be in the running, and depending, of course, on the quality of the storytelling, would it surprise many if The Nutcracker and the Four Realms(November) and/or Mary Poppins Returns(December) were in the mix?

Also keep in mind that the Oscar animated feature award (which was added in 2002 for 2001 movies) will, no doubt, see a nomination for The Incredibles 2(June), while Ralph Breaks the Internet(November) stands as a possibility.

With its “popular film” category announcement, the Academy is acknowledging that it has a major problem with most moviegoers. Whether this is the right answer or not, it remains to be seen. But it does open the door to at least the possibility of the Oscars regaining a bit of its relevance – along with some Disney magic.

Ray Keating is the editor, publisher and economist for DisneyBizJournal.com, and author of the Pastor Stephen Grant novels, with the two latest books being Reagan Country: A Pastor Stephen Grant Noveland Heroes and Villains: A Pastor Stephen Grant Short Story. He can be contacted at raykeating@keatingreports.com.