Next January 24th, when a cheerful duo announces the Oscars "Best Picture" nominations, they might stop reading after naming five nominees. Or maybe ten. The reason is that data-driven minds behind the Awards believe they shouldn't have "an obligation to round out" the number of nominees if a specific film or two doesn't garner enough votes. So, instead, the number of nominees will be kept secret to grant the Academy a little leeway.
Take the experiment as an additional sign that last year's grumbled-about ten-picture gambit to widen the field to popcorn flicks and increase ratings didn't work as planned. Per The Hollywood Reporter and the official press release, we learn that the next new system will require a Best Picture nominee to gather at least five percent of first place votes from ballot casters in order to be eligible for a nomination. The idea is to eliminate, as The Los Angeles Times noted, the films that have "no chance" of winning. (If that rationale was extended to last year's race, then the field could've been winnowed down to two: The Kings Speech or The Social Network.)
Reverting to tighter selection of presumably more serious films would also impact major studios' award season strategy (i.e. deciding which titles to promote with all those entertaining "For Your Consideration" ads). More specifically, there'll be fewer titles given an Oscar-nudge as studio strategists may find that some "movies whose chances of snaring a nomination may look more marginal," the Reporter figured. On the plus side, the extra bit of unpredictability might add a little more levity to the never-ending award season proceedings: now entertainment pundits have one more opportunity to get their Oscar picks completely wrong.