This hugely surprising and dramatic change for the 82nd Academy Awards is the direct result of intense lobbying by the major studios of the “Acadummy” Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. And outgoing president Sid Ganis, himself a former Sony/Columbia top executive, was especially vulnerable to the studio pressure because of his personality penchant for kowtowing to power and influence. I’ve learned he personally helped the studios impose their agenda on what is supposed to be the independent AMPAS board (but really isn’t). Let’s face it: this is great development for the studios who can now make their more successful releases even bigger cash cows with an Oscar nomination. But this is a terrible idea. It is nothing short of nonsensical for such an extreme departure from the Academy Awards’ recent past to be taking place. So what if, from 1932 to 1943, the Academy members nominated 10 films for Best Picture? (Embarrassing how AMPAS trotted out all those posters from 1939 to make their point without acknowledging that the major studios started a new picture once or twice a week in their heyday. Bette Davis alone starred in 4 to 6 pictures a year: that’s why Academy members could nominate 10 great movies for Best Picture.) That was then and this is now. And today it devalues the rarity of an Oscar nomination and belittles the judging process. (The Academy Awards now resembles the Golden Globes…) It’s no secret that the studios have grown increasingly frustrated that their mainstream fare — the four-quadrant films, the family-oriented toons, the superhero actioners, and the high-octane thrillers — have not been able to garner enough Best Picture nods in recent years while the art house offerings of the rapidly dwindling specialty divisions and indie prods dominate the process. That, in turn, has hurt the Oscar broadcast ratings as little seen and often little known films compete with one another while blockbuster hits are left out of the Academy Awards show. AMPAS buckled for reasons of self-preservation. Understandable, to be sure. But today’s announcement cheapens the entire nominating process. Why not 10 Best Actor or Best Actress or Best Director or Best Foreign Film nominations as well? The studios got what they wanted at the expense of the Academy’s integrity.

Beverly Hills, CA (June 24, 2009) — The 82nd Academy Awards, which will be presented on March 7, 2010, will have 10 feature films vying in the Best Picture category, Academy Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President Sid Ganis announced today (June 24) at a press conference in Beverly Hills.

“After more than six decades, the Academy is returning to some of its earlier roots, when a wider field competed for the top award of the year,” said Ganis. “The final outcome, of course, will be the same – one Best Picture winner – but the race to the finish line will feature 10, not just five, great movies from 2009.”

For more than a decade during the Academy’s earlier years, the Best Picture category welcomed more than five films; for nine years there were 10 nominees. The 16th Academy Awards (1943) was the last year to include a field of that size; “Casablanca” was named Best Picture. (In 1931/32, there were eight nominees and in 1934 and 1935 there were 12 nominees.)

Currently, the Academy is presenting a bicoastal screening series showcasing the 10 Best Picture nominees of 1939, arguably one of Hollywood’s greatest film years. Best Picture nominees of that year include such diverse classics as “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” “Stagecoach,” “The Wizard of Oz” and Best Picture winner “Gone with the Wind.”

“Having 10 Best Picture nominees is going allow Academy voters to recognize and include some of the fantastic movies that often show up in the other Oscar categories, but have been squeezed out of the race for the top prize,” commented Ganis. “I can’t wait to see what that list of ten looks like when the nominees are announced in February.”

The 82nd Academy Awards nominations will be announced on Tuesday, February 2. The Oscar® ceremony honoring films for 2009 will again take place at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center® in Hollywood, and will be televised live by the ABC Television Network.