At long last, Star Wars movies might get the attention they’ve been waiting for.
With Oscar ratings at an all-time low, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is trying to give the people what they want, quite literally. It just announced a new category for next year’s show: outstanding achievement in popular film.
Dubbed the Popcorn Oscar, the award is already causing a stir in Hollywood even before the Academy has clearly defined what it is. Some film-lovers fear it will take away from what has always been the Oscars’ biggest prize, best picture. And one major purpose of the show is to help movies find an audience. There’s not much to be gained by recognizing movies that are already quite popular.
In other words, could future movies that enthrall the public like Avengers and Star Wars sequels steal even more of the spotlight from, well, the next “Spotlight”? And will popular movies like “Titanic” that actually won best picture now be relegated to the Popcorn Oscar and thus be unofficially disqualified from receiving higher plaudits for their artistry?
Another mystery after Wednesday’s announcement is how to define what a popular film is. So The Wall Street Journal set out to measure movie popularity using existing metrics.
The first category is highest domestic box office, as measured by the website Box Office Mojo. The second measure: highest-rated by the public in votes on the Internet Movie Database website, on a scale of one to 10. (Films with tiny vote counts weren’t included.) And we compared those movies with the ones that won the best picture Oscar.
The box-office champ has never earned the top IMDb ranking in this decade. Just because the most people saw a movie doesn’t mean it elicited the strongest positive reaction. And a movie doesn’t need a mountain of voters to have the highest average score.
None of the films in the first two categories won best picture, either.
Some IMDb winners were names you’d expect: The animated film “Coco” had the highest audience score of 2017, with an 8.4 rating out of 10. But in two years, 2011 and 2016, foreign films barely seen in the U.S., “The Intouchables” and “Your Name,” respectively, scored highest.
“The Shape of Water,” the Oscars’ most recent best picture, managed a perfectly respectable 7.4 IMDb score. It also managed $64 million domestically—a fraction of what the biggest hits earn.
It’s hard to imagine the biggest moneymaker automatically waltzing off with the new Oscar. But if you measure popularity by the box office, you might as well name the new award after
The studio’s Star Wars movies have clinched that crown in each of the past three years. More are planned for every year through at least 2021.
But if that bet doesn’t pan out, Disney’s still got the Marvel Universe. That includes the two biggest-grossing movies of 2018 so far, “Black Panther” and “Avengers: Infinity War,” with more on the horizon.
Now one of them could be in line for a little gold statue, too.