OSCAR SHOCKER! Academy Builds Surprise & Secrecy Into Best Picture Race: Now There Can Be 5 To 10 Nominees

PETE HAMMOND – OSCAR: Best Picture Change Makes Sense

Beverly Hills, CA — The governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences voted on Tuesday (6/14) to add a new twist to the 2011 Best Picture competition, and a new element of surprise to its annual nominations announcement. The Board voted to institute a system that will now produce anywhere between five and 10 nominees in the category. That number won’t be announced until the Best Picture nominees themselves are revealed at the January nominations announcement.

“With the help of PricewaterhouseCoopers, we’ve been looking not just at what happened over the past two years, but at what would have happened if we had been selecting 10 nominees for the past 10 years,” explained Academy President Tom Sherak, who noted that it was retiring Academy executive director Bruce Davis who recommended the change first to Sherak and incoming CEO Dawn Hudson and then to the governors.

During the period studied, the average percentage of first place votes received by the top vote-getting movie was 20.5. After much analysis by Academy officials, it was determined that 5% of first place votes should be the minimum in order to receive a nomination, resulting in a slate of anywhere from five to 10 movies.

“In studying the data, what stood out was that Academy members had regularly shown a strong admiration for more than five movies,” said Davis. “A Best Picture nomination should be an indication of extraordinary merit. If there are only eight pictures that truly earn that honor in a given year, we shouldn’t feel an obligation to round out the number.”

If this system had been in effect from 2001 to 2008 (before the expansion to a slate of 10), there would have been years that yielded 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 nominees.

The final round of voting for Best Picture will continue to employ the preferential system, regardless of the number of nominees, to ensure that the winning picture has the endorsement of more than half of the voters.

Other rules changes approved by the Board include:

In the animated feature film category, the need for the Board to vote to “activate” the category each year was eliminated, though a minimum number of eligible releases – eight – is still required for a competitive category. Additionally, the short films and feature animation branch recommended, and the Board approved refinements to the number of possible nominees in the Animated Feature category. In any year in which eight to 12 animated features are released, either two or three of them may be nominated. When 13 to 15 films are released, a maximum of four may be nominated, and when 16 or more animated features are released, a maximum of five may be nominated.

In the visual effects category, the “bakeoff” at which the nominees are determined will expand from seven to 10 contenders. The increase in the number of participants is related to a change made last year in which the number of films nominated in the visual effects category was increased from three to five.

Previously, the Board approved changes to the documentary feature and documentary short category rules that now put those categories’ eligibility periods in line with the calendar year and thus with most other awards categories. The change means that for the 84th Awards cycle only, the eligibility period is more than 12 months; it is from September 1, 2010 to December 31, 2011.

Other modifications of the 84th Academy Awards rules include normal date changes and minor “housekeeping” changes.

Rules are reviewed annually by individual branch and category committees. The Awards Rules Committee then reviews all proposed changes before presenting its recommendations to the Academy’s Board of Governors for approval.

The 84th Academy Awards nominations will be announced live on Tuesday, January 24, 2012, at 5:30 a.m. PT in the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater.

Academy Awards for outstanding film achievements of 2011 will be presented on Sunday, February 26, 2012, at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center®, and televised live by the ABC Television Network. The Oscar presentation also will be televised live in more than 200 countries worldwide.

  1. WHOAAAAA. The Academy actually does something right? Im shocked!!!

    Next on the to do list, place a time line that will keep it under 3 hrs, otherwise I’ll fall asleep again.

  2. You know what? I agree with this decision. I hated the 10 Oscar race but always felt 5 nominees was too few. This mixes it up and makes it so NOTHING is a given anymore. I prefer that. I also love the Animated Feature and Visual Effects changes.


  3. “we’ve been looking not just at what happened over the past two years, but at what would have happened if we had been selecting 10 nominees for the past 10 years”

    I would love to be able to find out what some of these movies were!

  4. 5 is too small. 10 is too much. They should go with 7 or 8 nominees.
    But it’s funny decision that no one will know until the last moment. Take that critics and prediction sites. Now it will be fun to predict when no one knows how much there will be nominees.

    I think they will see if there will be enough good movies. If there won’t be 10 very good movies then they can easily name only 5.

  5. The change to 10 without a vote of the membership was an outrageous devaluation of the nominations by a few of the members on the Board.
    Although there is more merit in this proposal, it still smacks of a few trying to control the value built up over 7 decades.
    Why is the percentage set at 5%? Why not 10% or 20%? How do members feel about any change? There already is a docu category and an animated category, why increase the nominee total at all?
    Until the Academy can speak as one voice – polled and recorded =
    these tinkerings smack of “inside” politicing.

  6. I liked the 10 nominee rule because it gave 5 more movies the chance to compete instead of being overlooked. Now I’m not too sure about this new rule. There’s other ways to make surprises instead of this.

  7. These guys are clearly desperate and grasping at straws in a pathetic attempt to recover from the dwindling viewership that is killing the Oscar broadcast.

  8. Actually, if you read it correctly, you’d see it says that in the 8 years preceding the change to 10, there would never have been more than 9 and even as few as 5 nominees.

  9. Paraphrase: To be eligible for a best picture nomination, at least 5% of the submissions from members nust have it as their top list entry.

    So now the ‘gaming the vote’ will start early: ‘Do not vote for Social Network; it will get in anyway. Vote for Winters Bone; we might struggle at the 5% hurdle otherwise.’

    Then again, nothing they can do abaut THAT at the academy. I also applaud the modification. It gives more legitimacy to the noms. No more ‘Blind Side – ‘rly?’. Either the Blind Sides of the future will no longer show up, having failed the hurdle, or they can simply point out that nore than every twentieth member of the Academy thought theirs was the film of the year.

    On an unrelated note: kudos to the Academy for keeping their confidential stuff for themselves.
    We are getting numbers that only 5-9 pictures would have been there, but not which ones.

  10. I think they should add a best cast award. Not all movies have a single actor that stands out. There have been quite a few that have an amazing cast. and they should be recognized

  11. I agree with Joe that an ensemble award (like SAG has) would be a worthy addition. That way a flawless cast like in Doubt for example could get it where the individually elements didn’t manage to. Or a cast like Magnolia had.

  12. Stunt? What about a Casting category? The biggest single overlooked area when it comes to Oscars. It makes or breaks any film…

  13. This idea is so much better than the 10 set in stone nominees. Their original rationale of making sure a film did not get shut out let in about 2-3 undeserving films join in, usually for the sake of ratings and ubiquity.

  14. The time for a stunt category has come and gone. You’d wind up giving the award to a CGI firm.

  15. I’ve always felt that every category in the Academy Awards should include the choice “No Award”–there are some years where I find that nothing should be “forced” to win when you have to make a choice between the best of mediocre choices–the only other way to show displeasure in the choices for a category would be not to vote in it, which is basically a cop-out. If you don’t feel any of the choices in a category is deserving, you should be able to choose “No Award” to make your voice heard.

  16. Oh man this is not good. I already see how I would exploit the hell out of this if I were a shady executive.

    Let’s say that we are voting in 2009 and a producer is pushing for The Hurt Locker. You feel confident that it will be nominated. So why not throw some first round votes towards District 9 to ensure that two sci-fi films get nominated effectively splitting the final vote between Avatar and D9 allowing your title to win.

    So this effectively kills the preferential ballot. I cannot imagine a year where there are 11 films over 5%. That would mean a lot of films were loved–over 11 great films in a year, hard to imagine. What is done in the years where only 4 titles receive 5%?

  17. Don’t matter to me. I stopped being interested in the Oscars years ago, and stopped watching long before that. They could have 50 nominees for all I care

  18. This isn’t a surprise. It’s been working for the “Best Picture” category. Pretty much it’ll work the same way: Nominate the 5 that they REALLY intend to vote on and THEN nominate up to 5 more that they feel that the “groundlings” in Middle America would have heard of so that they’ll tune in to see their favorite celebrities (assuring continued ratings in the flyover states where people are more likely to watch “The Hangover” then “Hurt Locker”). It’ll work for the first few years until the audience gets wise that their favorites are NEVER going to win.

  19. So when is the Academy finally going to change the awards ceremony so it stops being a 3+ hour dull, boring, excessively self-congratulatory ego-fest, and becomes a fun program that I might actually watch (or DVR)?

  20. Well the Globes have put it to two different categories. I’d personally think The Descendants, The Ides of March, Moneyball, 50/50, and Hugo will be up in next year’s category ‘Best Picture’. I don’t care if they round it down to between five or ten.

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