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Academy tweaks Oscar rules, but does not reduce Best Picture nominations

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MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images

The Academy has spoken… and the 88th annual Oscars will keep its variable field of Best Picture nominees as it has in the past few years.

There had been hope that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences would return the Best Picture race to five movies, as it had been for decades until 2010. But alas, the Academy decided to maintain the status quo. 

The initial change to 10 films is credited to slash blamed on The Dark Knight, which didn’t make the cut in 2009 when the ceremony’s dismal TV ratings were linked to the absence of a popular blockbuster. (The rule was later amended to be a variable number of Best Picture nominees between 5-10.) The hope within the Academy at that time was that increasing the picture race to 10 would reward more popular commercial movies that would in turn help attract more and younger viewers for ABC. But after this year’s telecast, which crowned Alejandro Inarritu’s Birdman, generated the lowest ratings since 2009, there were whispers that the Academy would consider the experiment a failure and revert to the previous rules. Of this year’s eight Best Picture nominees, only Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper grossed more than $100 million. And even though Sniper turned out to be the year’s biggest hit, the polarizing war film didn’t seem to make any impact on TV ratings. 

Nevertheless, the Academy’s Board of Governors chose to stay the course, making only minor changes to next year’s race. 

The biggest change will impact producers. Now, to qualify as a producer nominee for a nominated picture, the producer must have been determined eligible for a Producers Guild of America (PGA) award or must have appealed the PGA’s refusal of such eligibility. The Academy’s Producers Branch Executive Committee will make the final decision. 

Other rule changes deal with shortlists in the Visual Effects and Documentary Short Subject categories. For Visual Effects, the number of eligible films to be shortlisted for further consideration increased to 20. In the category of Doc-shorts, the number of titles that can be shortlisted for nominations voting went from 8 to 10, and the number of nominees—previously fluctuating between three, four, or five—has been established at five.  

Also, for Animated Short Film and Live Action Short Film, for the film to qualify for consideration it must have a theatrical run in Los Angeles County for at least seven consecutive days, at least one screening per day. And the number of nominees for both categories is now set at five. 

The 88th Oscars will be held at Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre on Feb. 28. 

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