The annual Oscars ceremony will recognize popular films and be limited to just three hours, organizers said on Wednesday, in a bid to stave off slumping audiences for the most prestigious honors in the movie industry.
The sweeping changes, to be introduced for the February 2019 ceremony in Hollywood, will also include handing out some of the 24 Academy Awards during commercial breaks in the televised broadcast.
“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,” the board of governors at the Academy of Motion Pictures said in a letter to members, which was made available to media.
The U.S. television audience for the almost four-hour Oscar ceremony in March 2018 was just 26.5 million viewers, the smallest in the history of the 90 year-old Academy Awards.
The changes are the biggest since the Academy in 2016 pledged to double its female and minority membership by 2020 in response to the #OscarsSoWhite criticism of its nominees.
In 2009, it expanded the number of best picture nominees from five to 10 in a bid to open up the competition.
Yet in recent years, the Oscars have tended to honor art house fare and performers, like best picture winners “Moonlight” and “The Shape of Water,” for its biggest prizes rather than box office hits like the “Star Wars” franchise or superhero movies.
Wednesday’s letter did not give details of the new category recognizing popular film, saying those would come later.
The Oscars ceremony will be trimmed by handing out some awards during commercial breaks instead of honoring all winners, including those in categories like sound editing and costumes, along with actors, writers and director.
It did not say which of the 24 awards handed out on Oscars night would be shifted.
“We are committed to producing an entertaining show in three hours, delivering a more accessible Oscars for our viewers worldwide,” the board said.
The Oscars has for a number of years celebrated its lifetime achievement honorees at a gala dinner in November.
The board also announced it would bring forward the date of the 2020 Oscars ceremony to Feb. 9 - about three weeks earlier than usual.
At present, the Academy Awards are the last of Hollywood’s big award shows, following ceremonies like the Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild and Independent Spirit Awards where many of the same people are winners.
The next Oscars ceremony will take place in Hollywood on Feb. 24, as previously announced.