Film academy president says popular Oscar was misunderstood

FILE - In this Feb. 21, 2015 file photo, an Oscar statue appears outside the Dolby Theatre for the 87th Academy Awards in Los Angeles. The organization that bestows the Academy Awards says it is suspending plans to award a new Oscar for popular films amid widespread backlash to the idea. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences says Thursday that it will study plans for the category further. (Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP, File)

LOS ANGELES — The idea to hand out a popular film Oscar has been shelved for now following widespread backlash, but film academy president John Bailey says that the new category was well-intentioned in its efforts to reflect a changing industry and misunderstood by its critics.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said Thursday that it will further study plans for the category, citing the fact that implementing a new award three quarters of the way into the year would create challenges for films that have already been released.

The academy announced the new category for “outstanding achievement in popular film” last month without parameters, spawning immediate questions about the criteria and how it would impact critically and commercially films such as “Black Panther,” which has been cited as a possible best picture contender.

Bailey told The Associated Press he was surprised by the negative reaction to the new category and feels that that people did not understand its goal to give recognition to the kinds of films that are being made today.

“The idea of this award was not about trying to make sure that certain kinds of big mass market pictures get recognized. To my mind, it’s more about the kind of pictures that are so difficult to get made,” Bailey said, citing films that he worked on like “The Big Chill” and “Ordinary People” as the kind of “middle pictures” that major studios don’t make as many of and, when they do, aren’t often recognized with the film industry’s most prestigious award.

“What the board hoped was that in addition to maybe giving an opportunity for some of the larger budget films, (that it) was also and kind of mainly for these kinds of pictures that are so hard to get made — pictures like ‘A Quiet Place’ or ‘Crazy Rich Asians,'” Bailey said. “These are wonderful pictures and deserve to somehow find an ability to be honored as well.”

He’s unsure of when it will remerge as a possible addition to the Academy Awards ceremony, but it could be as soon as next year.

While the criteria for the new category are still not defined, Bailey said both release size and box office are part of the equation and that a film like “Black Panther” could be submitted and potentially win for both best picture and popular film. The same is true for an animated film.