The Oscars announced a new casting award. No one’s sure what it means.

A replica of the Academy Awards statuette on display prior to the 96th Academy Awards nominations announcement on Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2024, at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills, Calif. The 96th Academy Awards will take place on Sunday, March 10, 2024, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced Thursday it plans to introduce the first new Oscars award category in more than two decades, for “achievement in casting.”

The award will make its debut at the 98th Academy Awards in 2026, which honors films released in the previous year, according to a news release from the Academy. Assuming no other categories are announced in the interim, this will increase the ceremony’s total to 24.

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“Casting directors play an essential role in filmmaking, and as the Academy evolves, we are proud to add casting to the disciplines that we recognize and celebrate,” Academy CEO Bill Kramer and Academy President Janet Yang said in a joint statement.

Because the eligibility and voting rules for the new award won’t be unveiled until 2025, it’s unclear what will constitute award-winning casting. Would the Academy favor a blockbuster packed with world-class actors such as “Oppenheimer”? Or a casting director who discovers Hollywood’s next star, or finds the perfect doppelgänger to play a historical figure?

“Absolutely thrilled to be getting a new Casting category at the Academy Awards! Even though we don’t know the rules as of yet,” Matt Neglia, a Critics Choice Association member, wrote in a post on X (formerly Twitter).

Some award shows have a similar category already. The Critics’ Choice Movie Awards have a best-acting ensemble award, which “Oppenheimer” won this year. The Screen Actors Guild has one, too. “Barbie,” “American Fiction” and “Killers of the Flower Moon” were among those nominated for outstanding performance by a cast for the 2024 awards show.

The British Academy of Film and Television Arts added a best-casting category in 2019. According to the organization’s 2023 rules and process guide, voters rank their top casting choices, which are then considered by a jury that select the nominations.

Casting would be the first new Oscars category since an award for best animated feature film was rolled out in 2001. But it’s not the first time the Academy, which has seen declining viewership that hit a record low in 2021, has attempted to create a new award in recent years.

In August 2018, the Academy announced a new award for “outstanding achievement in popular film,” which was meant to honor movies that made an impact at the box office without necessarily being the best film of the year, such as “The Dark Knight” or “Black Panther.”

But the Academy postponed its debut after receiving backlash from industry insiders, actors and social media users, who argued against offering blockbuster films award-season gold just because they were popular. The award has never been presented.

In 2022, the Oscars attempted to present another pseudo award based around popular films by creating two fan-voted categories using the hashtags #OscarsFanFavorite and #OscarsCheerMoment. Fans were allowed to vote on social media for their picks using those hashtags.

The award, though not an official Oscar, was presented during that year’s show.

Zack Snyder, a darling of comic book fans, won both awards for his Netflix film “Army of the Dead” and the superhero blockbuster “Justice League,” which had a star-studded cast of its own in Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot and Henry Cavill.

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