OK, But Who Will Win Oscar’s New ‘Best Popular Film’ Category?

OK, so the Oscars are going through a few changes, mostly aimed at upping viewership among … .:checks notes:. … people who probably wouldn’t watch them anyway. (Maybe they took a few notes from Bravo’s desire to court straight men?)

The changes include a shorter telecast with some technical categories being given out during commercial breaks, as well as an earlier date for the live show, meaning the Oscar season won’t lag quite as long.

But the change that caused the most internet discussion was the inclusion of a brand new category, the first since the early 2000s introduction of Best Animated Feature. The new “Best Popular Film” category will reward films that are decidedly not arthouse films, which have dominated as Best Picture winners for some time. Never mind that this new category came about the same year that one of the year’s best reviewed films is a superhero film that includes an almost fully Black cast and Black creative team. And never mind all that history of #OscarsSoWhite criticism. But that’s none of our business, right?

It’s hard to know exactly who is a contender for the category, since the Academy wasn’t forthcoming about eligibility requirements. But, let’s make a few guesses. One of the requirements might be box office gross. It’s not clear whether that would mean domestic or international box office, but if it were domestic, I’d say popular means over $100 million, while internationally, it’d probably be $200 million. But, it could also mean popularity by a film’s highest theatre count, meaning films only that only played on over 1,000 screens. Or maybe both?

Let’s take a few guesses, with the help of Box Office Mojo and Rotten Tomatoes!

Potential Contenders:

Black Panther

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 97%

Widest release: 4,084 theaters

Domestic gross:  $700 million

Worldwide gross: $646.7 million

Total gross: $1.35 billion

Once news of the new category reached the internet, Black Panther came up immediately. The film lives at the nexus of universal critical acclaim and box office receipts. A lineup without Black Panther — hell, anything but a Black Panther win — is a mistake.

 

Paddington 2

What a treat! Own #Paddington2 on Blu-ray™ and Digital now! Link in the bio.

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Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100%

Widest release: 3,702 theaters

Domestic gross: $40.4 million

Worldwide gross: $186.4 million

Total gross: $226.8 million

The Paddington sequel is, for all intents and purposes, the best-reviewed film of the year, and while it didn’t break any records domestically, it’s an international hit that would be easy to see make it onto a final lineup.

 

Mamma Mia!: Here We Go Again

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 80%

Widest release: 3,514 theaters

Domestic gross: $92.8 million

Worldwide gross: $143 million

Total gross: $236.4 million

The second ABBA-tastic outing of the franchise came with glowing reviews and what else would be more thrilling than seeing this joy-imbued film — a complete antidote to our Trump-ridden, anxiety-inducing times — on an Oscar slate?

 

Avengers: Infinity War

Rotten Tomatoes score: 83%

Widest release: 4,474 theaters

Domestic gross: $678.1 million

Worldwide gross: $1.37 billion

Total gross: $2.04 billion

Avengers: Infinity War seems like it deserves a spot just for its critical acclaim and box office bonanaza-ness. But, if it were between Infinity War and Black Panther for a destined “Marvel slot” I’d give the edge to Black Panther. Also, given that Infinity War is the first of two parts, maybe they’ll figure they can give it to the sequel when it comes around?

 

A Quiet Place

Watch your step. A Quiet Place is on Blu-ray tomorrow.

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Rotten Tomatoes score: 95%

Widest release: 3,808 theaters

Domestic gross: $188 million

Worldwide gross: $144.6 million

Total gross: $332.6 million

A Quiet Place is just the type of film that might benefit from Oscar’s new category. A critical darling that definitely won’t have the staying power or campaign to break into the Best Picture category, it will make a lovely addition to this alternate category. The Academy will also be able to pat itself on the back for recognizing novice director John Krasinski. But, will the Academy’s distaste for horror hold it back?

 

Incredibles 2

Rotten Tomatoes score: 94%

Widest release: 4,410 theaters

Domestic gross: $584.9 million

Worldwide gross: $465.2 million

Total gross: $1.05 billion

Incredibles 2 seems like a shoo-in in this category, but will being animated hold it back, as it does for many films vying for Best Picture? If the Academy feels it’s already going to win Best Animated Feature, will the members deny it a slot in this new category?

 

Ready Player One

Year 2045. #ReadyPlayerOne

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Rotten Tomatoes score: 73%

Widest release: 4,234 theaters

Domestic gross: $137 million

Worldwide gross: $445 million

Total gross: $582 million

Ready Player One seems to have all the ingredients necessary to land a nod. It’s directed by Steven Spielberg, but falls squarely in the popcorn, not prestige, category. However, reception for the film was fine and there was barely any buzz. But for the Academy, Spielberg may be enough to reward it.

 

Ocean’s 8

Getting prepped for the big day. #Oceans8

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Rotten Tomatoes score: 67%

Widest release:  4,145 theaters

Domestic gross: $138.1 million

Worldwide gross: $136.1 million

Total gross: $274.2 million

Though not a critical darling, the film certainly got good fan reception and stars a slew of Oscar winners, including Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett and Anne Hathaway. That might be enough to get it a ticket to the big night.

 

Hereditary

Rotten Tomatoes score: 89%

Widest release: 2,998 theaters

Domestic gross: $43.9 million

Worldwide gross: $35.3 million

Total gross: $79.1 million

Hereditary doesn’t have the box office numbers to make it *truly* popular, but if the category ends up going by theater count, look for Hereditary to slip in. Its presence here is classic Oscar. In a category created to honor what is popular, the Academy could no doubt flub the mission and give a nomination to an underperforming critical darling with Toni Colette. That’s not to say that it’s not worthy of Oscar love. It should be in Best Picture contention, but given its genre, maybe this can be a way to show it some love?

 

Predicted final lineup so far:

Black Panther

Paddington 2

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

A Quiet Place

Avengers: Infinity War


Mathew Rodriguez

Mathew is a staff writer at INTO. His work has appeared in Mic, Slate and Complex. He loves "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," Flannery O'Connor and female rappers and is working on a memoir.

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