How the Producers Guild Created a Problem for Oscar by Sticking to 10 Movie Noms

What happens if PGA honors popular pics like "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2," but the Academy ignores them?
Jaap Buitendijk/Warner Brothers
"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2"

If the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences made a move to be more inclusive when it introduced the idea of 10 best picture nominees two years ago, the Producers Guild of America just called its bluff.

When the Academy announced in 2009 that it would embrace 10 movies for best picture, it was seen, in part, as attempt to regain some cred with the fans still smarting over the fact that it failed to nominate a critical and box office success like 2008’s The Dark Knight for best picture. During the past two Oscar cycles, the expanded lineup did include popular favorites like Avatar and Inception and animated movies like Up and Toy Story 3, so the Academy appeared to be reaching out to a wider audience of moviegoers. But while some Academy members cheered the move, others worried that the field of ten watered down the honor -- especially since the self-appointed Oscar pundocrats labeled movies like The Blind Side as pretenders to the throne, which just slipped in because standards had been lowered. 

And so this year, as if to ensure Oscar’s prestige, the Academy is introducing a new voting procedure, which will result in anywhere from five to 10 nominees. The likelihood, though, is that it will be closer to five than 10, because when the Academy asked its accountants PricewaterhouseCoopers to run a test of past votes from 2001 through 2008, the results suggested that there would have been five, six, seven, eight, nine, but never 10 nominees on any one of those years.

Cut to the PGA, which followed the Academy’s lead and opened up its own top film category to ten nominees two years ago. This time, instead of taking its cue from the Academy, the PGA has decided to stay the course and announced Tuesday that it will continue to nominate 10 movies for its top producing honors.

And how’s the latest scenario likely to play out? Consider a movie like the new Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. Although it’s opened to terrific reviews, the final installment in Warners’ mega-successful series is still considered a long shot for a best picture nomination by the armchair analysts. With 10 nominees, it might have had a shot, but under the new rules, it faces an uphill battle.

Over at the PGA, though, Deathly Hallows Part 2 could well earn a nomination, especially since the entire series, which has gone through four directors, has all been handled by the same steady producing team led by David Heyman.

But what happens, come January, if that popular movie wins a PGA nom and then is ignored by the Academy? The Potter-philes will be up in arms about the Oscar lockout. The PGA will look inclusive, and Oscars not so much. And the Academy will find itself back where it was three years ago, fending off accusations of elitism.