During the last decade the Academy Awards has seen a drop-off of blockbuster films listed amongst the nominees in the Best Picture category. Many people complained that the awards show was all about art house movies now, and that general audiences aren’t interested in a show that gave awards out to films most movie-goers hadn’t seen or heard of. In an attempt to combat this the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences decided to raise the total number of Best Picture nominees from five to ten. This is now the second year the practice has been followed. Let’s see if and how it has changed the Best Picture category.
Everyone’s Got a Dog in This Race…
As the table to the left clearly demonstrates, starting in 2004 the nominees were lower grossing ‘smaller’ films. This trend continued its spiral into 2008, but in 2009 those extra five nominations kicked in. Seeing the average gross of nominated films return to the levels previously reached at it’s height during the early 2000’s is a good sign. It means the show doesn’t seem so one sided. Seven of the ten nominees this year have grossed $90 million dollars or higher which effectively gives everyone a dog in this race. While this appears to have worked in building a vested interest for viewers, unfortunately all we’ve added are high grossing films that haven’t got a shot at a statue. Other award shows deal with this problem by splitting films into ‘Best of’ categories. While that type of system is less susceptible to social trends, it also trivializes the awards to a degree. Those shows tend to be more relaxed, even ‘party’ like in their ceremonies. The Oscars are too prestigious to backpedal to that degree. And it seems to make sense to most people that there is one film that is better than all the others. Even if it’s only by a fraction.
“Having 10 Best Picture nominees is going to allow Academy voters to recognize and include some of the fantastic movies that often show up in the other Oscar categories but have been squeezed out of the race for the top prize.” – AMPAS President Sid Ganis.
Do More Nominees Change the Vote?
Again we start at 2004, which ushered in an age of low grossing Best Picture winners. But does gross make a difference for Academy voting trends? It wouldn’t appear so as voters picked a $121.7 million winner in 2006. Yet in 2009, with the five additional slots, a little seen $14.7 million grosser won. Above is a quote with two highlighted words, recognize and include. It couldn’t be clearer that the Academy isn’t worried about who wins, simply that people see higher grossing movies as Best Picture nominees. This in turn should bring a rise in viewership of the award’s ceremony. Last year it brought that number back into the low 40 millions, after dipping into the mid to low 30’s for the previous four years. The public seems to have bought this for now. With the average winner grossing $50 million for the past decade will anyone catch on? Will viewership continue to rise as more recognizable films make their way into the top category? The coming Oscars will answer many questions. What do you think the outcome of all this will be?