September 1, 2009 / 12:30 AM / 11 years ago

Oscars' best picture race to factor in rankings

An Oscar statuette is displayed at the "Meet the Oscars, Chicago" event in this February 13, 2009 file photo. REUTERS/John Gress/Files

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Adding another hurdle to next year’s Oscar race, organizers will use a preferential voting system in tallying the final vote for best picture, where 10 nominees will be competing for the first time since 1943.

In all other categories, the victory goes to the nominee who earns the most votes. In the case of best picture, however, voters will be asked to rank their preference from 1 to 10, with 1 being best.

It’s the same preferential voting system that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences uses in its nominating process, but it hasn’t been used in best picture voting since 1945, two years after the field was narrowed to five from 10.

The Academy has opted to use the preferential system in the best picture race because it realized that with a field of 10 nominees, a winner could emerge with just slightly more than 580 votes out of the potential voting pool of 5,800 members. The preferential system is designed to measure depth of support, since second- and third-place choices can be just as important as first-place choices.

Under the system, ballots are first separated according to first-place choices. If one film wins a majority among all first-place votes, it’s the winner.

If not, the film with the fewest number of first-place votes is eliminated and those ballots are redistributed according to their second-place rankings. The process continues until one film has picked up a majority of votes.

The process creates a new challenge for Oscar campaigners, who will have to work to ensure they pick up as much wide support from Academy members as possible, because earning the gold trophy won’t be a simple matter of amassing the most number-one votes. The 82nd annual Academy Awards will be handed out in Hollywood on March 7.

Editing by DGoodman at Reuters

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