What are the chances of, say, Super 8 or X-Men: First Class picking up a Best Picture nod?
Got a calculator?
After changing the rules a few years back to expand the number of Best Picture Oscar nominees from five films to 10 in hopes of getting more fan-friendly flicks in contention, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts &Sciences is tinkering with the format yet again. The 2012 Academy Awards will now see a range of between five and 10 films nominated to add an "element of surprise."
And that's where the math degree helps.
According to an announcement by the Academy's Board of Governors, the move to a variable system will keep people guessing by keeping the precise number of Best Picture nominees a mystery right up until nominations are revealed.
The original expansion came in 2009, after The Dark Knight got snubbed. It was seen as a ratings-grab, since more big-studio pics would make the cut alongside art-house fare.
But now, the brain trust is worried that too many movies were being nominated for Best Picture that had no real shot at winning (see: District 9). And that means producers of critically hailed popcorn flicks (like Super 8, X-Men: First Class or Kung Fu Panda 2) shouldn't be getting their hopes up.
So the Academy did some research, studying the past decade of vote-getting and determined that the average percentage of first place votes received by the top vote-getting movie was 20.5 percent. They eventually agreed that a minimum of 5 percent of first place votes was required to receive a nomination, resulting in the sliding scale merit-based system they've now settled on.
"In studying the data, what stood out was that Academy members had regularly shown a strong admiration for more than five movies," said Bruce Davis, the Academy's retiring executive director. "A Best Picture nomination should be an indication of extraordinary merit. If there are only eight pictures that truly earn that honor in a given year, we shouldn't feel an obligation to round out the number."
If such a methodology had been in place between 2001 and 2008, certain years would have yielded between five and nine nominees.
Separately, the rules were tweaked regarding the Animated Feature statuette. Anywhere between two and five nominees could be announced, depending on the number of eligible films released in a given year.
We'll have to wait until nominations are out on Jan. 24 to find out which films are deemed worthy.