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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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James Cameron Confirms Avatar Sequels Have Wrapped Production

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In a video message, the director of the two highest-grossing films of all time (Avatar and Titanic) praised the ensemble of actors who have been filming Avatar 2 and Avatar 3 since September 2017.

“Hi, James Cameron here and today I’m coming to you from the set of the Avatar sequels — and behind me you can see our performance-capture stage. Today we’re capturing some stunt scenes filming some stunt scenes but our principal cast are all wrapped: Sam [Worthington], Zoe [Saldana], Sigourney [Weaver], Stephen Lang, Kate Winslet.”

The Oscar-winning filmmaker added: “They’re done now but they gave us incredible performances. And I can’t tell you how proud I am of the work that they did on these films.”

Avatar 2 is due in theaters on December 18, 2020, and will be followed by Avatar 3 on December 17, 2021. Two additional sequels are planned after that if the first pair deliver the kind of box-office success that Fox and Cameron are expecting.

In the video message, Cameron then turned to a different project as he explained the ambition and artistry of Alita: Battle Angel , which reaches theaters in February.

Cameron fell in love with the namesake source material, the cyberpunk saga created by Yukito Kishiro in the 1990s, and flirted with making it into a movie in the mid-2000s but ultimately set it aside in favor of making the first Avatar.

In 2015, director Robert Rodriguez (Sin CitySpy Kids) came on board as director for Alita with  Cameron producing (along with his longtime partner, Jon Landau). The film’s approach — a dreamy futuristic setting yet with photorealistic anime visuals — is being billed as a game-changer (not unlike Cameron’s Terminator 2 and Avatar) but that could be an elusive sell to moviegoers.

Which explains why Cameron was using his Avatar publicity and social media megaphone to tether the two franchises and boost the fledgling Alita.

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Best Popular Category Had ‘Stake Driven Through Its Heart’, But Isn’t Dead Says Oscars President

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John Bailey, the president of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences (who oversees the Oscars), has spoken candidly about the awards show’s bid to bring in more viewers with a distinct ‘Best Achievement in Popular Film’ award.

You’ll remember it as being the category that suffered a very public and embarrassing controversy in which Academy members openly rejected it earlier in the year, prompting the organisation to ‘temporarily shelve’ their plans until they could conduct a proper review. Speaking at the EnergaCamerimage Film Festival in Bydgoszcz, Poland, Bailey stated that the award had “seemed like a good idea, the board approved it, announced it, but we got a lot of pushback.”

“So the board reconsidered and tabled it – which is not to say that the idea is dead. Even after a stake was driven through its heart, there’s still interest.”

The Academy has a “generous” deal with ABC, who have agreed to fund and air the telecast until 2028. The challenge, in those intervening years, is to somehow save the show from haemorrhaging even more viewers. As Bailey says: “We have another decade, and we’re already starting to deal with the problem. There’s desire to expand the awards to millennials, many of whom do not have TV.”

ABC, who are majority-owned by the Walt Disney Corporation, may take some umbrage with the idea of no longer being the sole home of the Oscars, but one idea that has been repeatedly floating around is to air the telecast on the forthcoming Disney+ streaming service – a more palatable option, perhaps, for younger viewers.

However, when it comes to the concept of new categories that aren’t Best Popular, Bailey was considerably more cagey. Asked if we could see awards for motion-capture, stunt-performers, or achievements in casting, the president said: “A number of different crafts would like to be represented and there are ongoing discussions about creating new branches, but right now we’re trying to reduce the size of the board. However, nothing is written in stone.”

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Pedro Pascal Confirmed To Be Under The Helmet Of The Mandalorian

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Game of Thrones and Kingsman: The Golden Circle actor Pedro Pascal has been officially named as the man under the helmet of the titular bounty hunter of Star Wars: The Mandalorian.

Little is known of the steaming-first live-action series, which will air on Disney+, save for a brief synopsis: “After the stories of Jango and Boba Fett, another warrior emerges in the Star Wars universe. The Mandalorian is set after the fall of the Empire and before the emergence of the First Order. We follow the travails of a lone gunfighter in the outer reaches of the galaxy far from the authority of the New Republic...”

Helmed by showrunner Jon Favreau (Iron Man, The Jungle Book), the series recently announced its first crop of directors. Of note to Star Wars die-hards was the news that Dave Filoni, showrunner of fan favourite animated shows Clone Wars and Rebels, would be directing the series’ premiere episode. Meanwhile, Thor: Ragnarok’s beloved eccentric director Taika Waititi will helm an episode, along with Bryce Dallas Howard (daughter of Solo: A Star Wars Story director Ron Howard), Rick Famuyiwa (Hope), and Deborah Chow (Jessica Jones).

In Star Wars canon, the Mandalorians are a fierce race of armoured warriors that exist in tribal ‘families’, and who – until the dawn of the Clone Wars – largely kept out of the way of the rest of the galaxy. Following the devastation of their kind in the galactic civil war their numbers dwindled, until few remain by the time of the new show (roughly seven years after the events of Return of the Jedi, and twenty-three years before The Force Awakens). The race are an integral part of the Star Wars mythos, and even once warred with the Jedi Knights.

Pascal’s involvement had been heavily rumoured for the past month. The Mandalorian is currently awaiting a release date.

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