How the Producers Guild Awards Nominations Affect Oscar's Best Picture Race (Analysis)

Harry Potter Deathly Hallows Sirius Black Talking - H 2012
Warner Bros.

Harry Potter Deathly Hallows Sirius Black Talking - H 2012

This morning's announcement of the nominees for the 23rd annual Producers Guild Awards -- and especially the nominees for the Darryl F. Zanuck Producer of the Year Award in Theatrical Motion Pictures, which will be presented on Jan. 21 -- is of limited value to those of us who are trying to forecast the best picture Oscar race. Because of the fact that the PGA still guarantees 10 nominees, whereas the Academy might now have anywhere from five to 10 (thanks to a new and complex vote-tallying system), a PGA nomination no longer all-but-guarantees an Oscar nomination. It is probably the case, however, that a PGA snub all-but-guarantee an Oscar snub.

So what should we read into this morning's news?

Well, the seven films that have long been presumed to be best picture Oscar frontrunners -- The Artist, The Help, War Horse, The Descendants, Midnight in Paris, Moneyball, and Hugo -- all registered with PGA voters. Had one of them not, we would have had a major story on our hands; but, to my relief, the PGA basically confirmed the core of what we have been thinking and hearing quite some time now.

With its remaining three slots, the PGA opted to reward three studio movies, all of which have been quite commercially successful: Universal's Bridesmaids ($169 million domestically), Sony's The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo ($60 million domestically after just two weeks in theaters), and, to a somewhat lesser extent, Sony's The Ides of March ($40 million domestically).

Should we be surprised that the PGA opted for those films over more art-house/indie fare like The Tree of Life ($13 million domestically) or Drive ($34 million domestically), which are coming up more than they are in conversations with Oscar voters? Probably not, based on the discrepancies between the PGA's and Academy's nominees over the past two years when both organizations included 10 nominees. In 2009, the PGA included Paramount's Star Trek ($257 million domestically) and Warner Bros.' Invictus ($37 million domestically), whereas the Academy included Warner Bros.' The Blind Side ($255 million domestically), yes, but also Focus Features' A Serious Man ($9 million domestically). And in 2010, the PGA included Warner Bros.' The Town ($92 million domestically), whereas the Academy opted instead for Roadside Attractions' Winter's Bone ($6 million domestically). Indeed, a big part of the way that producers measure the success of a movie is, understandably enough, through its box-office receipts.

So, while today's news is certainly not good for films like The Tree of Life or Drive, I wouldn't necessarily interpret it as a death-knell. But for films that were very commercially successful and did not show up today -- including and especially Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 ($381 million domestically) -- it probably does spell the end of the road.