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Academy Changes Best Picture Voting Rules

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood August 31, 2009 at 9:34AM

In his new The Wrap Oscar column "The Odds," Steve Pond reveals new voting rules to accompany the top ten best picture Oscar contenders. The goal, says Academy executive director Bruce Davis, is to eliminate the possibility that one of the films could win with less than 18% of the vote. This seems like a reasonable--if arcane--solution. And one that will change the way Oscar campaigners have sought to persuade voters to choose their number one favorite. That's less important now. The top five favorites will now become key.
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Thompson on Hollywood


In his new The Wrap Oscar column "The Odds," Steve Pond reveals new voting rules to accompany the top ten best picture Oscar contenders. The goal, says Academy executive director Bruce Davis, is to eliminate the possibility that one of the films could win with less than 18% of the vote. This seems like a reasonable--if arcane--solution. And one that will change the way Oscar campaigners have sought to persuade voters to choose their number one favorite. That's less important now. The top five favorites will now become key.

Pond explains:

Instead of just voting for one nominee, the way Academy members have always done on the final ballot, voters will be asked to rank all 10 nominees in order of preference -- and the results will be tallied using the complicated preferential system, which has been used for decades during the nominating process but never, until now, on the final ballot.

As a result, a film could be the first choice of the largest number of voters, but find itself nudged out of the top prize by another movie that got fewer number one votes but more twos and threes.

It sounds crazy, but there’s good reason to make the change at a time when dividing the vote among an expanded slate of 10 nominees could otherwise allow a film to win with fewer than 1,000 votes (out of the nearly 6,000 voting members).

This article is related to: Awards, Oscars


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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.