The Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) met yesterday and had a few things to say about the 88th Academy Awards. After much chatter (apparently from a small section of the group), the Oscars will not go back to a 5-nominee slate for Best Picture but keep things as they are, with a voting structure that allows between 5-10 nominees. This might come as a disappointment to some who view the current system to open for populist films versus a truer Best Picture slate. But remember, terrible movies got into the top 5 as well, it just depends on the year and the campaign. When the initial change was made to expand the Best Picture nominee field in 2009, it was the previous year’s perceived snub of The Dark Knight that spurred conversation for the expansion. Aimed to help include a broader spectrum of films (read: popular), the jump from five nominees to ten only lasted two years. After that it became a possible 5-10 nominees. This year, in a field of eight, only one film had grossed over $100M and that was American Sniper. With a 5-nominee rule it’s likely the film would not have made the Best Picture list. But even that film’s inclusion wasn’t enough to keep this year’s Oscar telecast from being the lowest rated in six years.
Of the changes that actually took place yesterday, at least one does affect Best Picture and its eventual winner(s). Now, to qualify as a producer nominee for a nominated picture, the producer(s) 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. This opens the door a bit from the previous rule of three; as in no more than three producers per nominated film unless appealed to the Producers Branch.
Changes were made to all three Shorts categories; for Animated and Live Action 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 film(s) must be advertised by the theater with the proper times. In the category of Documentary shorts, the number of titles that can be shortlisted for nominations voting goes from 8 to 10. The number of nominees for all three categories is also now set at five.
Perhaps the best and late coming change is in Visual Effects. With CGI-heavy films becoming such a large part of the movie landscape year to year, the number of eligible films to be shortlisted for further consideration goes from 10 to 20.
The 88th Oscars will be held at Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre on February 28th, 2016 and air on ABC.