- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Putting an emphasis on quality rather than quantity, the Academy Awards shook up the best picture category again.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced late Tuesday night that it had approved a change in the nomination process that will allow five to 10 best picture nominees. On the recommendation of its Board of Governors, the number of the category’s nominees will be dictated by the voting.

A film will need a minimum of 5 percent of first-place votes to be nominated for best picture.

The Academy said the change came after analyzing the voting from the past two years. In 2009, the Oscars expanded the best picture field from five nominees to 10.

Academy President Tom Sherak said the board also analyzed what might have happened in the past decade had voting rules been different. Retiring executive director Bruce Davis recommended the change to Mr. Sherak and incoming CEO Dawn Hudson.

“In studying the data, what stood out was that Academy members had regularly shown a strong admiration for more than five movies,” Mr. Davis said. “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.”

A study by accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers found that if this system had been in place from 2001 to 2008, there would have been years that yielded five, six, seven, eight and nine nominees.

The Academy believes the new voting system will add a layer of intrigue to the Oscars. As films vie for the honor in the much-watched Oscar race, they won’t know exactly how many slots they’re squeezing into until nominees are announced in January.

For most of the Academy Awards’ history, there have been five best picture nominees. In 1932, the field was increased to eight, and from 1936 to 1943, there were 10 nominees.

The academy returned to that number in 2009 for the 2010 Oscars with the hope of broadening appeal. Some felt that the best picture category had become too limited in its selections to critical darlings. The omission of acclaimed blockbusters such as “The Dark Knight” was particularly egregious to some in the industry.

Adding nominees brought in films like the atypical sci-fi film “District 9,” the popular Sandra Bullock movie “The Blind Side” and the Pixar-animated “Up.”

In 2010, the field was generally praised for its depth: “Black Swan,” “The Fighter,” “Inception,” “The Kids Are All Right,” “127 Hours,” “The Social Network,” “Toy Story 3,” “True Grit,” “Winter’s Bone” and the winner, “The King’s Speech.”

The final voting on the best picture winner will still be preferential, with voters numbering their selections.

Nominations for the 84th annual Academy Awards will be announced Jan. 24.