It wasn't quite on the level of last year's announcement of the wrong best picture winner on the Oscars telecast, but it was arguably in the same ballpark.
Facing a backlash over its creation of a category for "outstanding achievement in popular film," the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences abruptly reversed itself on Thursday and said it would not include the new award in the upcoming Academy Awards ceremony and would "seek additional input" on whether to move forward with it at all.
The decision, which was reached by a majority of the organization's 54-member board of governors, came less than a month after the board announced the new category, without specifics of how films might qualify — a move that caught the film industry by surprise.
The idea of a "best popular film" award was criticized by many as an act of pandering in reaction to declining ratings for the Oscars, with some fearing a category focused exclusively on blockbuster movies would water down the significance of the awards as a whole.
In a statement, the academy said that it remained "committed to celebrating a wide spectrum of movies" but that "implementing any new award nine months into the year creates challenges for films that have already been released." The academy said the board would remain "actively engaged in discussions" regarding the category.
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times following the announcement, academy president John Bailey defended the original thinking behind the new award, saying it reflected a need to address a broader shift in the film industry that has seen the major studios largely backing away from the kinds of intimate, adult-oriented movies that tend to be celebrated during awards season in favor of superhero franchises and other tentpole fare.
"There was a time — you look at the new American cinema of the '70s, for example — when there were films that were both adult and were popular," Bailey said. "The sad thing is that I think there's been an unfortunate bifurcation at the extremes.
"One of the issues that seems to have been relevant to the declining ratings of the Oscar telecast is that the movies that are being nominated are fine, really wonderful movies that deserve to be nominated, but they're not being seen by wide audiences," he continued. "So this new award was meant to create a category of really excellent filmmaking that would essentially address and create interest in the awards for the kind of movies that people really go to see in large numbers."
With Oscar ratings plummeting to an all-time low this year, some within the group's leadership have argued that the academy should work harder to recognize critically acclaimed commercial blockbusters.
In a letter announcing his resignation from the board of governors this year, producer and former studio executive Bill Mechanic wrote, "Over the past decade we have nominated so many smaller independent films that the Oscars feel like they should be handed out in a tent."
But the creation of the nebulous new category sparked an immediate negative reaction on social media. Some observers pointed out it could serve as a kind of consolation prize for a critically acclaimed hit such as this year's "Black Panther" if the Marvel blockbuster doesn't win — or isn't even nominated for — best picture.
Some members said they simply didn't know what to make of the category.
"It seems very vague and strange," said actor Oscar Isaac, who has starred in adult-oriented art-house fare and blockbusters such as the "Star Wars" films.
Bailey said he was surprised by the degree of hostility to the new category. That said, even within the academy's leadership, Bailey conceded, there has been division over it.
This isn't the first time the academy has reversed itself on a decision regarding the show. In 1992, the board of governors voted to remove the live-action short film and documentary short-film categories from the telecast. Prominent academy members such as Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese and Robert Redford balked at the idea, and it was never put into effect.
Some regarded the rollout of the new category as just the latest in a string of public embarrassments — the #OscarsSoWhite controversy, delays and cost overruns with the academy's museum project and last year's "envelope-gate" — that indicate a lack of direction and vision for film's leading organization.
In an effort to address the criticism that the Oscars show has grown too bloated, the academy further announced Thursday that six to eight of the 24 award categories would be presented during commercial breaks at the next telecast. Winning moments from those categories, which have not yet been determined and will be rotated each year, will then be edited to air later in the broadcast — a means of streamlining the show.
"We are committed to a three-hour show," Bailey said. "It's necessary. I feel we have a responsibility to the people who watch that show in the Eastern time zone, which is a huge market, to have that show ended by 11 o'clock."
He paused, then added wryly, "Nobody that I know of has protested about that."