A new report from Variety suggests that the new category comes from a "best blockbuster" recommendation from the ABC after the ratings for the 2018 Oscars hit an all-time low with viewership of the awards show having declined by nearly 40 percent since 2014. According to the report, the new category was pushed for by ABC as the network is set to air the award show through 2018.
ABC has not commented on the Oscar policy change -- Variety's report notes that their information came from "sources at the network -- but as Vanity Fair noted, if true this could be a very problematic change for the Oscars. As most people know, Disney owns ABC and when one looks at 2018's biggest blockbusters thus far? The top three at the domestic box office -- Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, and Incredibles 2 -- are all made by Disney-owned studios and distributed by Walt Disney Pictures. Add onto that the reported roughly $70 million per year for television rights to the Oscars that Disney (through ABC) pays for and you get the question that many online have been asking: did Disney just buy the Oscars?
It might not be an invalid question. In the past dozen years Disney has purchased several studios, including Pixar, Lucasfilm and Marvel Entertainment. Their latest acquisition of 21st Century Fox has already provoked some criticism by those who fear that, once the merger is complete, Disney will have enough clout to dominate the box office -- and not just in terms of box office receipts. Some fear the entertainment giant would have significant leverage over theaters/theater chains that would give them an edge over competing studios, including Universal, Warner Bros. Paramount, Sony-Columbia, and Lionsgate.
Social media backlash and other concerns aside, there are still a lot of questions about the changes to the Oscars the answers to which may serve to clarify what level of impact this "popular film" category will have and if it really will give Disney the appearance of an unfair advantage. Right now, there has been no indication what the actual criteria will be for the category so it's possible that the definition of "popular" may be bigger than box office receipts. Perhaps viewer ratings for films, such as what current exists on Rotten Tomatoes, will be a factor.
Fans will find out what the criteria for this new category -- and what it might mean for Disney -- when it debuts for the 91st Academy Awards on Sunday, February 24, 2019.
What do you think? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.