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Our Theories About the Expanded Best Picture Category

The Academy’s decision to boost the Best Picture category from five to ten is nothing new. Between 1931 and 1943, 10 best-picture nominees was the norm. In some years they had either 8 or 12. Thus when he made the earth-shattering announcement back in June, Academy president Sid Ganis characterized the move as a “return to the past.”  But we think it’s based on more than nostalgia.

Higher ratings: It’s no secret that the award show’s numbers have been steadily decreasing of late, hitting a low in 2008 with 31.76 M viewers. Although last year’s awards topped that turnout with 36.94 M, that number pales in comparison to the 57.25 M viewers in 1998 (the Titanic year). Nominating more films, and films that are more populist at that, will compel more people to tune in on March 7th — at least in theory.

Greater diversity: Now that the list size has doubled, well-made, high-grossing, audience-friendly films that are often ignored will be thrown a bone. (Can you say Dark Knight?) It’s a nice gesture, and it probably makes the Academy feel less elitist. But do those films actually have a chance of winning? We don’t think the public believes a crowdpleaser like The Blind Side could beat out The Hurt Locker.

More money: It’s no surprise that being nominated for an award boosts ticket sales. Judging by the current box-office numbers for the Best Picture nominees, this is great news for indie films like An Education ($9 M), The Hurt Locker ($12.7 M), Precious ($45 M), and A Serious Man ($9.2 M). It should be noted that Oscar-related piracy has gone down this year.

If you want to see all of the nominees, clear your calendar for February 27th and March 6th: AMC theaters will be showing five of the films on each day.

Chart via The Candler Blog.

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