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Like it or not, the Academy’s board of governors decided Aug. 7 to create an Oscar for “outstanding achievement in popular film.” In response, the organization has faced loads of criticism, partly because its announcement about this new honor left out any specifics, instead promising, “Eligibility requirements and other key details will be forthcoming.” Rumor has it that not even the Academy has fully determined how to define “popular” or handle the presentation of this olive branch to the masses, so allow me a try.
1. Create a shortlist based on box office.
?Identify the 20 highest-grossing movies of ?the year and the films that had the year’s ?20 highest-grossing opening weekends so that a movie is not disadvantaged by opening at year’s end. (All numbers should be worldwide, not domestic, as the Academy is an international organization and the Oscars are watched all around the world.) There will be overlap, so ?the norm will be a shortlist featuring about 25 titles.
2. Clearly differentiate it from best picture.
At the same time that Academy members are invited to nominate films for the best picture Oscar, they should also be invited to nominate films for the “best popcorn Oscar” — specifically, the five most outstanding achievements on the shortlist of 25. It should be explicitly emphasized on the ballot, directly above those two categories, that films are eligible for both awards and that a member’s decision about whether to nominate a movie for one should have no bearing on the other. This would hopefully somewhat alleviate the understandable concerns of admirers of films like Black Panther that the popcorn Oscar could undermine a film’s chances at best picture.
3. Make sure viewers understand the rules too.
The Academy wants more fans to have a stake in the awards. So the group needs to explain what the category is not. Being the highest-grossing nominee is not a guarantee of victory in this category; instead, members will be asked to judge “achievement,” meaning the best overall film of ?the lot. Last year, for instance, the highest-grossing film worldwide was Star Wars: The Last ?Jedi, but members would have been well within their rights to award the popcorn Oscar to the ?No. 10 grossing film, Wonder Woman, if they concluded it was actually the more impressive artistic achievement.
4. Sorry, Netflix.
This new Oscar exists to thank the public for seeing movies in theaters and ?to give them a reason to tune in, so its nominees should be chosen from theatrical hits. The streaming services will have to be content to compete for best picture.
A version of this story first appeared in the August 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
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