What do Oscar changes mean for 2019 Academy Awards Best Picture race?

Now that the Toronto and Venice film fests have unloaded their slate for this fall’s editions – and with Telluride’s list of offerings just around the corner – this is a perfect time to take stock of which movies from early in 2018 might earn a place among the Best Picture Oscar nominees.

This year, however, there is a just-announced twist that will affect the most coveted honor. Taking its cues from high-school yearbooks, the Academy just announced on Tuesday that there will be a new category devoted to Best Popular Films. The reason? To snag more eyeballs after this year’s Oscars telecast last March hit an all-time low of just 26.5 million viewers.

AMPAS is also taking measures to keep from running over three hours by handing out some craft Academy Awards during ad breaks and simply mentioning them during the show. Another update:  Although the 91st edition honoring 2018 films will air on Feb. 24 next year, the date will move up to Feb. 9. in 2020.

SEE Top 10 burning questions we have about the Oscar changes

One drawback with this popularity contest?  It lessens the possibility that a superior blockbuster like “Black Panther” or “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” or a well-regarded genre-film hit like “A Quiet Place” will grab a perch among the best-pic candidates.

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But that doesn’t mean they don’t have a chance at both. Could a superhero blockbuster finally enter the fray for the Academy’s top honor? Might two fright flicks scare up a shot at a slot? Will a cartoon caper become the fourth-animated movie to go against live-action competitors?  Perhaps the spotlight might shine on any of a quintet of less-seen but critically beloved indie dramas?  Will this be the year that a documentary is welcome into the category? Is it possible that a raved-about sixth chapter in a two decade-old  action franchise can squeeze in?

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