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Jeffrey Katzenberg on Oscars’ New Popular Film Category Controversy

Jeffrey Katzenberg is keeping a safe distance from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ recent controversial shakeup of the Oscars.

“I’m wishing them well,” the media mogul told Variety on Thursday at the Motion Picture & Television Fund’s NextGen party at Paramount Studios. “I love the Academy. I want it to work out for them.”

He smiled, “I’ll be sitting in the 15th row with my popcorn and soda. It’s above my pay grade.”

In a message to its membership on Aug. 8, Academy president John Bailey and its CEO Dawn Hudson said the Oscar broadcast—starting next year at the 91st Oscars—will now include a new category for outstanding achievement in popular film.

The new category was met with outcry and many unanswered questions. The Academy later issued a statement clarifying that can be nominated for both outstanding achievement in popular film and for the Academy Award for best picture.

Shortly after the new category was announced, John Cho told Variety that it’s hard to formulate an opinion on the controversial new category because, “I don’t even know what that means. I’m waiting for a definition of what popular is. … I do think there is a lot of great filmmaking going on and stuff that we don’t consider arthouse cinema and that’s cool by me to recognize, but, popular, I don’t know what that is.”

Lena Waithe praised the Academy. “I think the Oscars have to change,” the Emmy winner said. “I think they need to change because the world is changing, audiences are changing, people are changing.”

But Rob Lowe scored with the tweet of the moment. “Seriously, this ‘best pop movie’ category is the worst idea the Academy has had since they asked me to sing with Snow White,” he tweeted.

The Academy also announced that yet-to-be-named below the line categories will be handed out during the broadcast’s commercial breaks. They’re also determined to shorten the telecast to just three hours.

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