Producers guild doubles field to 10 films

Follows Academy's lead for next year's awards

NEW YORK -- The Producers Guild of America said Monday that it would double the number of slots for its Producer of the Year Award from five to 10, following the lead of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.

The news of the added slots for the group's top prize comes after several weeks of speculation that the PGA would replicate AMPAS' move. The Producer of the Year award is a somewhat accurate predictor of the Academy's best picture prize, which also goes to producers.

PGA Awards co-chair David Friendly said in an interview that there had been thought to expand to 10 -- a position that AFI and the Broadcast Critics also take -- before AMPAS' recent move. "It was certainly in discussion," he said. "No one wanted to get in front of the Academy, but once they did it, it made it easier and much more logical."

PGA president Marshall Herskovitz added in a statement that the group was nodding to the Academy's earlier decision but said that wasn't his group's sole motivation. "The PGA board approved the expansion of our best produced picture category nominations to support our colleagues at the Academy, but also because we feel it better represents the unprecedented diversity of films being produced today," he said.

The PGA also confirmed late Monday that, like the Academy, it will use preferential voting not only for nominees but for the winner, meaning that the top 10 films will be ranked by voters, with the highest average ranking declared the winner.

Under the previous system, the film with the most No. 1 votes would take the statue. In the Academy's case this would have meant that a film could win with under 600 votes, while for Producer of the Year that meant a picture could have won with fewer than 400 votes (just over 10% of its approximately 3,500 members).

Under the new system, it's possible for a film to win producer of the year or best picture despite not even getting the most first-place votes.

Supporters of slot expansion argue that the move makes for a more inclusive awards season and spreads the kudos (and awards business) around.

But upon hearing the news, several awards-watchers noted that the PGA move would repeat a problem the Academy discovered -- namely, of finding enough worthy films to honor at a time when specialty and awards releases are being scaled back.

The PGA, for its part, maintains that this won't be a problem, because the added slots will diversify the field. "It's not that we're simply adding five more independents to the menu," Friendly said. "This opens the door to good films that have a lot of professionalism to them but were also big audience-pleasers."

The Producer of the Year nominees often foretell many of the nominees for best picture, though with 10 slots, those choices could be harder to predict. The winner of the prize goes on to win best picture roughly half the time; in the past few years, "Lord of the Rings: Return of the King," "No Country for Old Men" and "Slumdog Millionaire" went on to take the top Oscar, while "The Aviator," "Brokeback Mountain" and "Little Miss Sunshine" did not.

The PGA's move also spurred talk in awards circles that DGA and SAG could similarly widen the nom field for their top prizes, though to do so would deviate from the Oscars, which maintains five slots each in its directing and original and adapted screenplay categories.

The PGA will announce nominees on Jan. 5 ahead of its Jan. 24 ceremony at the Hollywood Palladium.