Jason Blum Praises Oscars' New Popular Film Category: "A Step in the Right Direction"

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Jason Blum

"The Academy Awards has to be relevant and make people want to watch it," the 'BlacKkKlansman' producer told The Hollywood Reporter at the film's premiere, while director Spike Lee said the announcement "came out of nowhere."

Producer Jason Blum is applauding the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences' move to shake up the Oscars with, among other changes, the introduction of a new category, dubbed outstanding achievement in popular film.

"I think it's a great thing. I think they have to shake up that show," Blum told The Hollywood Reporter on Wednesday at the Los Angeles premiere of BlacKkKlansman, which he produced. "I think the Academy is so important, and what the Academy does is help us as producers make more commercially challenging movies. In order to do that, the Academy Awards has to be relevant and make people want to watch it. I think they took a step in the right direction."

It is unclear how the Academy will approach the criteria for voting in the category. For his part, Blum said it's hard to say whether Get Out, which he also produced, might have taken home the award if it was instituted last year despite its contention for best picture (the film was up for a total of four Oscars and won best original screenplay for Jordan Peele).

Meanwhile, BlacKkKlansman director Spike Lee told THR at the premiere that he also was trying to process what the new category means. He said he heard the news while in the middle of an interview Wednesday morning and that he was just as surprised as anyone.

"It came out of nowhere," he added.

The lack of clarity over the new category raised a lot of questions, leading to an Academy spokesperson releasing a statement Wednesday clarifying the initial announcement: "While the details for a popular film category are still being finalized, a single film is eligible for an Oscar in both categories — outstanding achievement in popular film and the Academy Award for best picture. The new category will be introduced this coming year, at the 91st Oscars. In creating this award, the board of governors supports broad-based consideration of excellence in all films."

The Academy said Wednesday that, in addition to the introduction of the new category, it is committing to keeping the telecast at three hours, which means that select categories will be presented during commercial breaks, while edited versions of those moments will air later in the telecast. Many crafts members are upset over the latter change.

The moves were sparked in part by falling TV ratings for the broadcast over the last few years. The telecast hit an all-time low at this year's ceremony with a best picture winner, The Shape of Water, that had grossed only a modest $50 million before its big win.