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Rodney Ho covers TV and radio, from Atlanta’s stations to the hottest “American Idol" news.

Oscars won’t air all awards live, adding ‘popular film’ achievement category

Academy trying to boost ratings, which have sagged in recent years

Originally posted Wednesday, August 8, 2018 by RODNEY HO/ on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

The annual Oscars telecast remains one of the most popular non-sports programs but hit an all-time low last year of about 26 million viewers.

The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences has agreed on a few new measures to help boost ratings down the road. For one, the show will trim unspecified categories from the live broadcast. Instead, some unspecified categories (perhaps arenas such as film editing and production design) may air during commercial breaks, then summarized during the live portion.

Currently, every category airs live, which can make for some eye-glazing TV at times. Other awards shows have wised up to this problem. The Grammy’s, for instance, only showcases 12 or so of the 84 awards over three hours, focusing instead mostly on performances. Most of the winners are named in a pre-telecast ceremony.

The hope is to get what is normally a three-and-a-half hour Oscar slog into a trimmer three-hour package. 

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Most years, many of the best picture nominees are films targeting a niche audience. This past year, we had the likes of “Phantom Thread” (domestic box office gross: $21 million) and “Call Me By Your Name” ($18 million) though “Get Out” ($176 million) made the cut.

The Oscars expanded the number of potential films in 2010 to help get more popular movies included but it’s hard to say if that move goosed ratings or not

Films that cater to comedy, action, comic book heroes and horror tend to get short shrift. Top-grossing  films such as “Thor: Ragnarok” and “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” are not exactly Oscar bait. Only on occasion do the two meet e.g. “Titanic,” “Avatar.” Those also are years when ratings tend to go up.

So the Academy is creating a new category called “outstanding achievement in popular film.” It didn’t describe what that specifically means but presumably it will feature films that had broad commercial impact such as “Black Panther,” “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Deadpool 2.” 

There is certainly a chance “Black Panther” or a top-grossing horror flick such as “A Quiet Place” could end up in the best picture category as well. But that doesn’t happen every year. 

About the Author

Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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