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It's a wide, wide field for best-picture Oscar

For first time in three decades, list of pictures in contention tops 300
/ Source: Hollywood Reporter

For the first time in 32 years, more than 300 films will vie for the best picture Oscar, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said Wednesday.

Marking a 16.5 percent increase from last year, 311 feature films will compete for cinema’s biggest prize of 2005.

Academy credits coordinator Howard Loberfeld cited an increase in the number of feature-length documentaries playing theatrically (35 vs. 15 in 2004) for the spike, as well as industrywide distributor reorganizations, which led to the release of an unusual number of long-delayed projects.

“Miramax in September and October had a whole bunch of releases put out there,” Loberfeld said. “Also, Sony picked up MGM and pushed out some of their older titles. There was a lot of movement in the marketplace ... and a lot of people entering into the (distribution) field.”

Nomination ballots and the reminder list of the 311 eligible releases will be mailed Thursday to voting members of the Academy.

According to Academy rules, a feature-length motion picture must have a running time of more than 40 minutes in order to qualify for consideration and have been exhibited theatrically on 35mm or 70mm film, or a qualifying digital format. A film must open in a commercial theater for paid admission in Los Angeles County between Jan. 1, 2005, and midnight Dec. 31, 2005, and run for seven days in a row. Films that receive their first public exhibition or distribution in any other media, such as TV or video, are not eligible for any Academy Awards.

Although 2005 marks a recent high, “it’s not any type of record because back in the old days, studios would put out two pictures a week,” Loberfeld said. The highest number ever recorded was in 1927-28, the first year of the Academy Awards, when 562 films graced the Academy’s reminder list. The low point was in 1982, when 175 films competed for best picture honors.

Nominations for the 78th Annual Academy Awards will be announced Jan. 31 at 5:30 a.m. PT in the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater. The Academy Awards ceremony will be televised live March 5 on ABC from the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, beginning at 5 p.m. PT.