How a Film Becomes a Best Picture Nominee

As the movie awards season gets under way, there's a question hanging over the best picture Oscar race: How many nominations are up for grabs?

In a surprise move in June, the Academy introduced a twist in the best picture voting procedure that will result in anywhere from five to 10 nominees -- the number won't be known until noms are announced Jan. 24. A tacit acknowledgment that the broader field of 10 nominees the past two years yielded a few ringers that weren't quite Oscar-worthy, the new rule has introduced an element of uncertainty that has Oscar campaigners approaching the season with even more anxiety than usual.

Accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers reran the votes for 2001 to 2008 using the new rule and found five to nine nominees emerged each year. To arrive at this year's nominees, PwC will use a simplified variation of the preferential voting system used in other categories (though understanding it is another question altogether). The Academy's 5,755 eligible voters will fill out a best picture ballot, listing five choices in order of preference. Bottom line: A picture that gets at least 9.1 percent of the first-place votes is guaranteed a nom. And after the votes are redistributed (see chart), movies that have collected at least 5 percent of the available vote also will make the cut, while a few that might have made it in a field of 10 could fall out.

Got it? Well, neither did we at first.


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