The Gold Knight: Recent rule changes by motion picture academyWritten by James A. Molnar | The Gold Knight | firstname.lastname@example.org
With a late-night decision, the motion picture academy has quelled criticism that has recently plagued the Best Picture category. At the same time, it has also added a splash of surprise for next year’s race.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Board of Governors voted Tuesday night to implement a system that will now produce anywhere between five and 10 nominees in the Best Picture category. The number of nominees will be announced when the nominations themselves are revealed. For the 84th Academy Awards, that date is Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2012.
After what critics thought were egregious nomination omissions of films like “The Dark Knight,” the Academy announced two years ago (LINK) that it would be expanding the field of five Best Pictures nominees to 10. The last time the field had been that large was at the 16th Academy Awards (1943). Critics then lambasted (LINK) the Academy for the expanded field after last year’s Oscars, the first year it was implemented. This decision could be the middle ground.
With two years of the expanded category under its belt, the Academy conducted a study with the help PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Academy President Tom Sherak explained the study: “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.” The change was first recommended to him by retiring Academy executive director Bruce Davis and then to incoming CEO Dawn Hudson (LINK) and then to the governors, he was stated in a press release.
During the period studied, the average percentage of first place votes received by the top vote-getting movie was 20.5. Post-analysis, Academy officials determined that 5 percent 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,” Davis was quoted in the press release. “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.”
According to the press release, 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,” stated the release.
Other rule changes
The big twist was not the only rule change approved by the board.
For Animated Feature, the need for the Board to vote to “activate” the category each year was eliminated. A minimum number of eligible releases – eight – is still required for a competitive category, however. The short films and feature animation branch recommended a modification to the number of possible nominees for Animated Feature. 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. The Board approved the change. (Last year eight to 15 features had to be release for three nominations. The change allows for up to four nominations if there are 13 to 15 released.)
For Visual Effects, the “bakeoff” where nominees are determined will expand from seven to 10 contenders. This increase is related to a change last year that ballooned the possible number of nominees from three to five.
Previously, the Board approved changes to Documentary Feature and Documentary Short 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: Sept. 1, 2010, to Dec. 31, 2011.
Other rule modifications for next year’s Oscars include expected date changes and minor “housekeeping” changes.
Rules are typically changed or modified during this time of year when individual branches and category committees meet and propose changes. Those recommendations are presented to the Academy’s Board of Governors for approval. Some, if not all of those proposed changes, were reviewed at Tuesday night’s meeting.
Toledo Free Press Star Lead Designer James A. Molnar blogs about all things Oscar at TheGoldKnight.com. His column will appear online and in print periodically.