Could new Academy Award “popular film” category lead to Oscars for the Avengers?

In their attempt to stay relevant in a changing media world, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences is adding a popular film category. 

How do you judge a movie’s popularity? It’s a question the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences will have to answer now that they have added a Popular Film category to their list of awards. Though no criteria for the award were listed at the time of the announcement, the glaring issue is how the Academy will determine what makes a movie a popular film.

It’s not unusual during awards season to hear moviegoers say that they haven’t seen any of the Oscar-nominated films. The Academy, which favors dramas over comedies and summer tentpoles, has typically shunned the kinds of movies that large numbers of movie fans favor.

In order to remain relevant in an increasingly changing world, the Academy has decided to listen to the criticism and take steps to address it. The letter that went out to Academy members noted that they’re listening: 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.”

Does this mean that Avengers 4 might have a shot at an Oscar? Maybe. But not necessarily. The devil will be in the details for this award, and what remains unclear is what “popular” means. There are already several variations of people’s choice awards out there, and box office dominance does not necessarily a good movie make. So what does “popular” mean? Therein lies the rub. The Popular Film Oscar might not go to Wonder Woman 1984 because Wonder Woman 1984 might not make the cut. It will all depend on how the Academy defines “popular.”

On the bright side, now that the Academy has extended membership to a diverse group of new members, the Popular Film category could be the first of many sweeping changes that allow more recognizable films to receive nominations. This would be a welcome move to bring the Oscars in line with the modern moviegoing audience. And if the Avengers can finally win an Oscar, so much the better.

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