Outgoing Academy President Sid Ganis made a surprise announcement Wednesday morning in Beverly Hills, Calif. As most media outlets reported, the number of nominees for the Best Picture category will be doubled to 10 at the 82nd Academy Awards, which will be presented on March 7, 2010.
At the beginning of the press conference, Ganis said, "This morning's event is about the Academy Awards, but it may not be exactly what you think it is.
“We'll be casting our net wider and in casting that net wider who knows what will turn up,” he said, adding that a documentary, animated or foreign language film could be included in the larger field.
"And what do you know, maybe even a comedy in that group of 10," Ganis added sardonically.
The reason for the change is somewhat retrospective and retroactive.
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, according to the press release.
Another possibility for the announcement may be "intense lobbying by the major studios," according to blogger Nikki Finke, and maybe a little enmity from the general public by disregarding well-made films such as "The Dark Knight" for Best Picture nomination.
“I would not be telling you the truth if I said the words ‘Dark Knight’ did not come up" during the nominations discussion, Ganis said during the press conference.
Roger Ebert noted on his Web site, however, that an increase in the number of nominees doesn't exactly mean a ticket to the Academy Awards for mainstream blockbusters.
"As the number of Academy voters has grown, they have been increasingly willing to step outside the mainstream," Ebert said. "While this would mean a highly-regarded hit like 'The Dark Knight' would almost certainly be nominated, but the new 'Transformers' film, which could become this year's biggest blockbuster, would have no chance even if the category grew to 20 films. Taste does remain a factor."
David Carr, Oscar blogger and aficionado for The New York Times, discussed a great angle of the story that I hadn't quite considered.
"The clear winner is the academy," Carr said. "At a time when many believe that the academy’s taste had become too rarified for its own good, the move to broaden and democratize the signal category of the industry’s signal event puts the Oscars right back in the news and perhaps in the middle of American moviegoing conversation."
As I reported earlier this year, ratings for the ceremony have hit record lows. Having bigger and more mainstream movies attached to the ceremony may drive more viewers to the small screen. Or not.
We'll have to wait and see what the true outcome of this announcement is when Oscar nominations are announced Feb. 2, 2010, and after next year's ceremony airs on ABC Sunday, March 7, 2010.
View the press conference on YouTube.
On a side note: Here is a cool time-lapse video I found of the 81st Academy Awards setup at the Kodak:
Photo of Sid Ganis from the press conference: Todd Wawrychuk / ©A.M.P.A.S.