Invites are in the mail as awards season kicks off in a big way with the 5th annual THE CONTENDERS Presented By Deadline, an all-day event Saturday, November 7 showcasing 18 participating studios and distributors and a record 40 (most we’ve ever had) films in the hunt for gold. Pete Hammond badgeThe popular invitation-only event  — open to Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences members as well as those of key guilds — is again at the DGA Theatre at 7920 Sunset Blvd. in West Hollywood. The event will run from 8:30 AM-4:45 PM.

Deadline Hollywood’s The Contenders event has become a must-stop on the awards circuit and this year the response fromContenders - 300 x 250 - v1 studios and distributors is bigger than ever. In fact, this year several indie “newcomers” have joined the fun. Several stars, directors, producers, writers, studio heads and crafts artists from the films will participate in individual presentations and footage from the Oscar-contending movies will be interspersed. Returning sponsors are Dell, Paradigm, Final Draft, and Screen Engine as well as new sponsor this year Allied Integrated Marketing.

Deadline Hollywood's The ContendersStudios and distributors participating and their films are The Weinstein Company with Carol, The Hateful Eight, Burnt and Macbeth; Bleecker Street Films with Trumbo; A24 with Room and The End Of The Tour; Focus Features with Danish Girl and Suffragette; Universal Pictures with Straight Outta Compton and Steve Jobs; Broad Green Pictures with 99 Homes, I Smile Back and Song Of Lahore; Fox Searchlight Pictures with Brooklyn and Youth; Warner Bros.with Black Mass, Mad Max: Fury Road and other films; Open Road Films with Spotlight; Sony Pictures with The Walk, Spectre and Concussion; Sony Pictures Classics with Truth, I Saw The Light, Grandma and Son Of Saul; DreamWorks Studios/Walt Disney Studios/Pixar The Contenders Presented By DeadlineAnimation Studios with Bridge Of Spies, Inside Out and The Good Dinosaur; 20th Century Fox withDeadline Oscar Contenders 2014The Peanuts Movie, The Martian, Joy and The Revenant; Paramount Pictures with Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, The Big Short and Anomalisa; Lionsgate with Sicario; Roadside Attractions with Love & Mercy; and last but not least, Netflix with Beasts Of No Nation.

I will be moderating many of these panels along with Deadline’s co-editor-in-chief Mike Fleming and Dominic Patten. There will also be raffle prizes given out during the day including two Dell computers; two trips to the Four Seasons Maui; a three-day stay at the Golden Door Spa; and lots of other surprises that will make some lucky winners happy.

WhiplashAwards voters have found the unique event to be extremely helpful and now make it a part of their annual pre-voting fact-finding process. Among those eventual Oscar winners whose journey to the Dolby Theatre was helped along by an early appearance were Patricia Arquette, J.K. Simmons and Birdman Best Picture winner John Lesher among many other winners and countless nominees. As one Academy member told us, “Learning the back story of how these incredible films got made makes me appreciate them even more.” Another member told me, “this is like Oscar on steroids!”