Oscar organizers expand film nominee list

Wed Jun 24, 2009 7:35pm EDT
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By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Oscar organizers on Wednesday unveiled plans to expand their list of best film nominees to 10 from five, broadening the group of contenders for the world's top film honors.

The Beverly Hills-based Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences which gives out the Oscars, or Academy Awards, annually honors the best movies, actors, actresses, directors and other filmmakers in a gala ceremony that is watched by tens of millions of people around the world.

"We will be casting our net wider and in casting that net wider, who knows what will turn up?" Academy President Sid Ganis told reporters at a news conference.

The Academy has come under scrutiny from movie fans in recent years because many nominees for best film have been adult-oriented dramas that play mostly in art houses and, as a result, do not lure the huge crowds or draw the big box office of major studio releases aimed largely at kids and teenagers.

For instance, 2008's best film nominees included political drama "Frost/Nixon" which made $27 million at box offices while last year's top-grossing movie at $1 billion worldwide, Batman thriller "The Dark Knight," failed to be nominated.

As a result, industry insiders see a disconnect between Oscar voters and typical movie fans, and they worry that declining viewership in the Oscar telecast results from the lack of widely popular movies being nominated.

Ganis told reporters that "casting that net wider" means that films like "Dark Knight" or animated movies, documentaries or foreign films had a better chance at getting nominated.

He said boosting TV viewership was not a key factor in the Academy's decision, noting that U.S. viewership was up about 13 percent at 36 million for this past February's telecast compared to an all-time low 32 million the year before.   Continued...

<p>English director Danny Boyle holds up his Oscar for best director for "Slumdog Millionaire" backstage at the 81st Academy Awards in Hollywood, California, February 22, 2009. REUTERS/Mike Blake</p>