Oscar rules to change

Top ten contenders to battle it out on the big night.

by Jennie Kermode

Do you ever go to see a film and get the feeling it's been designed with the Oscars in mind? Do you feel frustrated that your favourites are unlikely to win because they're animated or, say, science fiction? All that could be about to change.

In a shock announcement yesterday, Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences president Sid Ganis declared that from now on the nominations list for Best Picture will include ten films, not just the traditional five. This means that it will effectively be opened up to lots of different types of film. We'll be likely to see more wins by crowd-pleasers like Slumdog Millionaire, and there won't be the same monopoly enjoyed, much of the time, by literary adaptations.

If the Oscars don't seem like a big deal to you, bear in mind that Oscar nominations can dramatically improve the money a film makes on its DVD release. They can also do a lot to bring in money for new projects by particular writers, directors and stars. So, in effect, this change in the way the awards are run could change the kind of films being made by the big studios.

It's also likely to change distribution patterns, and this is where the studios are less happy. From now on you can expect to see more big name films coming out during January and February, aiming to be fresh in the minds of the Academy's voters when it counts. But this could clog up the schedules and mean less choice, year round, between big productions and independent ones. Studio heads are also concerned that it costs a lot of money to campaign for an Oscar and this is the last thing they need in a recession.

How it will all play out remains to be seen, but one thing is clear - the Oscars are now interested in changing with the times, so we may see further changes down the line.

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