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The Academy Announces Popular Film Category and Shorter Show in Attempt to Boost Ratings

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Major change is coming to the Oscars.

On Tuesday night, just five months after the lowest-rated Academy Awards telecast on record (a mere 26.5 million viewers tuned in), the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ board of governors not only re-elected cinematographer John Bailey as its president, but also approved several major changes to the tradition-bound ceremony’s format in the hope of retaining the viewers it still has and luring others back into the fold ahead of the 91st Academy Awards on Feb. 24, 2019.

To address the concerns of those who find the show to be too long and boring (thanks largely to the current existence of 24 competitive awards, of which the general public only cares about a few), Bailey and Academy CEO Dawn Hudson said in a letter to members that the board has “committed to producing an entertaining show in three hours.” They explain that this will be achieved partly by “present[ing] select categories live, in the Dolby Theatre, during commercial breaks (categories to be determined).” Those categories will not be removed from the telecast; instead, “the winning moments will then be edited and aired later in the broadcast.”

This new format is similar to the one employed at the Tony Awards, which are annually broadcast on CBS, to recognize some of its lower-profile categories. (The Tonys present those awards and record acceptance speeches of them during a pretelecast portion of the ceremony, rather than during commercial breaks. Presenting them during commercial breaks is probably intended to make nominees in those categories feel more integrated into the heart of the telecast.)

The fact that this change has been endorsed by the Academy’s board of governors, which is dominated by representatives of “below-the-line” branches whose Oscar winners could be impacted by this, is a testament to how dire the situation is, as far as the telecast’s ratings. Still, one can safely expect a groundswell of protest from some of the members of those branches.

At least as important, in terms of improving the ratings of the Oscars telecast for ABC, the Academy also said in its letter that it “will create a new category for outstanding achievement in popular film,” adding that “[e]ligibility requirements and other key details will be forthcoming.” Some will complain that adding such a category cheapens the prestige of the Oscars, making it more like the People’s Choice Awards or MTV Movie & TV Awards, but that is old-world thinking. 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.

If the popular film award (likely to be nicknamed “the Popcorn Oscar”) is implemented in time for the 91st Oscars, then there is little doubt that ratings will improve, since blockbusters like Black PantherAvengers: Infinity WarDeadpool 2Mission: Impossible – Fallout, and Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again — and their fan-favourite stars — will be guaranteed a presence at the ceremony. (One can safely assume that their backers will not have to decide whether or not to enter in competitive categories or for the popular film category, but will automatically be eligible for both; Black Panther already was expected to seriously contend for competitive nominations and awards.)

The Academy also notified members that the date for the 92nd Oscars — the one that will take place in 2020, honoring the films of 2019 — has been moved up from the previously announced Feb. 23 to Feb 9. In all likelihood, this is to combat the sense that the Oscars have become anti-climactic, coming, as it does, at the end of a months-long season in which it is preceded by dozens of awards ceremonies. Those ceremonies won’t fade away as a result of the calendar change, but people inside the industry will certainly be less burned-out by the time the Oscars finally come along.

Below is the full text of the Academy’s message to its members.

* * *

The Academy’s message to members is below:

Dear Member,

Last night, the Board of Governors met to elect new board officers, and discuss and approve significant changes to the Oscars telecast.

The Board of Governors, staff, Academy members, and various working groups spent the last several months discussing improvements to the show.

Tonight, the Board approved three key changes:

1. A three-hour Oscars telecast

We are committed to producing an entertaining show in three hours, delivering a more accessible Oscars for our viewers worldwide.

To honor all 24 award categories, we will present select categories live, in the Dolby Theatre, during commercial breaks (categories to be determined). The winning moments will then be edited and aired later in the broadcast.

2. New award category

We will create a new category for outstanding achievement in popular film. Eligibility requirements and other key details will be forthcoming.

3. Earlier airdate for 92nd Oscars

The date of the 92nd Oscars telecast will move to Sunday, February 9, 2020, from the previously announced February 23. The date change will not affect awards eligibility dates or the voting process.

The 91st Oscars telecast remains as announced on Sunday, February 24, 2019.

We have heard from many of you about improvements needed to keep the Oscars and our Academy relevant in a changing world. The Board of Governors took this charge seriously.

We are excited about these steps, and look forward to sharing more details with you.

John Bailey and Dawn Hudson

Editor-in-Chief of Movie Marker. Likes: Scorsese, Spielberg and Tarantino Dislikes: The film 'Open Water' I mean, what was that all about?

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‘If Beale Street Could Talk’ New Trailer

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Academy Award-winner Barry Jenkins (Moonlight) brings his highly anticipated next feature to the screen, an adaptation of James Baldwin’s stunning novel, If Beale Street Could Talk. We are delighted to share with you the new trailer and first poster for the film which comes to cinemas January 2019

In early 1970’s Harlem, Tish, a nineteen-year old girl, is in love with a young sculptor, Fonny, the father of her unborn child. When Fonny is falsely accused of rape and imprisoned, Tish and their families race to clear his name before the baby is born. A story about love persisting in the face of racial oppression and injustice, Jenkins brings together a talented young cast which includes Stephan James (Selma, Race) as Fonny and newcomer Kiki Layne as Tish.

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‘The Walking Dead’ Movie in the Works

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The Walking Dead will never die. Not if AMC has anything to say about it, at least. The network has a 10-year plan to pump out several Walking Dead movies that would then be spun-off into new TV shows. In short, not even a headshot can put down this zombie franchise.

As it enters its 9th season, The Walking Dead shows no signs of slowing down. AMC knows a good thing when they see one, and they’re prepared to keep The Walking Dead alive and kicking for as long as possible. A new story at Bloomberg lays out AMC’s ambitious, possibly crazy, plan to continue The Walking Dead in some shape or form for the next 10 years, and possibly longer. While specifics haven’t been ironed out yet, AMC is likely planning “several movies for a TV network or streaming service that could spin off into different series.” They also want to take the show international, setting at least one potential spin-off series in another country.

Scott Gimple, who produced several seasons of The Walking Dead, is leading the development of different shows. As of now, AMC is weighing a choice between producing every Walking Dead-related property themselves, or possibly bringing in an outside party – like a streaming service – “that can provide money and global exposure.” The plan is to air all new shows on AMC while also bolstering their own streaming service, AMC Premiere.

“Ownership of that content – call it Walking Dead, Fear the Walking Dead – allows us to determine the fate of that content, so we can navigate as we choose,” said Chief Executive Officer Josh Sapan. All of this news comes on the heels of the fact that viewership for The Walking Dead is declining. As the Bloomberg piece points out, “After peaking at 19 million nightly viewers in 2015, the audience for The Walking Dead declined to an average of 11 million in the most recent season.”

Some might take this as a sign that interest in The Walking Dead is dwindling, and planning a slew of movies and spin-offs might be a bad idea. But AMC is committed to making this work. The way they see it, interest in the main show – The Walking Dead – may be declining, but that doesn’t mean there can’t be renewed interest for new shows. AMC wants Walking Dead to be their Star Wars or Star Trek – a property that will seemingly never end.

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Disney CEO Bob Iger: “I Take The Blame” For Too Many Star Wars Films, Too Soon

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With Solo: A Star Wars Story cruising towards its home release next week, Disney CEO Bob Iger has finally opened up about the film’s less-than-stellar box office performance, which saw the feature garner just $392 million worldwide.

Now, those aren’t poor numbers by any stretch of the imagination – most indies would kill for just 1% of that – but they’re not even mid-tier Marvel takings (Ant-Man grossed over $500 million, and I defy you to find one person to whom Ant-Man is their favourite film). Furthermore,  compared to other recent efforts from the galaxy far, far away (The Force Awakens – $2bn; Rogue One – $1.05bn; The Last Jedi – $1.3bn), well, they’re not quite in the same league.

When Solo hit to a meek audience reception it seemed that every critic, pundit and even rival studio head had a theory as to why – was it too soon after The Last Jedi (which had released just five months prior)? Was it down to the recasting of one of the most iconic roles in cinema? Was it due to the negative fan backlash from a small vocal minority of Star Wars fans following Rian Johnson’s creative decisions? Was it the one-two punch of Deadpool 2 and Avengers: Infinity War financially-draining audiences in the weeks running up to Solo’s release? Or was it simply bad luck?

Well, despite not mentioning Solo by name, Bob Iger seems to think it was simply a case of Star Wars fatigue – overloading audiences with too many adventures too soon. Considering the usual 3-year gap between instalments, the one-a-year schedule Disney has been adhering to since 2015 does seem a tad much. But here’s what Iger said during an interview with The Hollywood Reporter:

“I made the timing decision, and as I look back, I think the mistake that I made – I take the blame – was a little too much, too fast. You can expect some slowdown, but that doesn’t mean we’re not gonna make films.”

As it stands, the only other Star Wars movie officially slated for release is 2019’s Episode IX, which will reportedly close out the so-called Skywalker Saga that began all the way back in 1977. As for what comes next? According to Bob: “We are just at the point where we’re gonna start making decisions about what comes next … But I think we’re gonna be a little more careful about volume and timing. And the buck stops here on that.”

There’s an 18-month gap between the theatrical releases of Solo and Episode IX, and Bob Iger (with Disney) is clearly hoping that will be enough of a breather to allow audience anticipation to build back up for director JJ Abrams’ closing chapter.

Solo: A Star Wars Story is due for release on DVD, Blu-Ray and 4K this Monday the 24th of September, rated 12A.

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