Rumored to be in the works over the past few weeks, the Producer's Guild of America didn't surprise anyone today when they announced that the annual Darryl F. Zanuck Producer of the Year Award will be expanded from five to 10 nominees. This follows the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences making the dramatic move earlier this summer.
The Producer of the Year award is not always a precursor to determine who will win the Oscar for Best Picture (where the award goes to the film's producer), but the nominees are usually a good indication of who will make the final cut. By expanding to 10 nods, The PGA wants to keep their relevance by making sure that connection is still made by Academy Award voters and the media alike. Tellingly, however, only five of the past nine winners won the Oscar for Best Picture: "Slumdog Millionaire," "No Country for Old Men," "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King," "Chicago" and "Gladiator."
Many in AMPAS will applaud this news hoping the more commercially inclined producers could influence Academy members to vote for more mainstream flicks when their nods are announced before Oscar ballots are due. If "Star Trek" and "District 9" are going to get any end of year love from the guilds, it's going to be with the PGA.
The 21st Annual PGA Awards will announce their nominees on Jan. 5, 2010. The Awards show is scheduled for Jan. 24.
In other news:
Toronto got a second major pickup as Sony Pictures Classics acquired the dramedy "Get Low" starring Robert Duvall, Bill Murray, Sissy Spacek and Lucas Black which was well received by many (including HitFix's own Drew McWeeny) at this year's festival. No release date has been mentioned, but with Duvall getting awards buzz for his performance it will be interesting if SPC tries to open it before the end of the year. The company also picked up the Israeli drama "Lebanon" which won the Golden Lion at this year's Venice Film Festival.
Speaking of Toronto, Indiewire released their final rundown of their annual festival Critic's Poll, which this pundit participated in, and the results are pretty intriguing. "A Serious Man" and "Up in the Air" both lead the way with A - averages. "The Informant," Tom Ford's "A Single Man," "White Material," "The Damn United," "The Art of the Steal" and Stephen Frears' "Odine" all rated a B+. Finishing at the bottom of the list were "Dorian Gray" (D-), "Creation" (C-), "Jennifer's Body" (C), "Tanner Hall" (C), "Love & Other Impossible Pursuits" (C), "Chloe" (C) and "Trash Humpers" (C). For the complete ranking of all 34 films click here.
Lastly, one darkhorse Oscar candidate, "Bright Star," opened this past week and did $189,703 over the three-day weekend in 19 theaters for a $9,984 average. Its made $206,000 since opening last Wednesday, but Apparition founder Bob Berney (the marketing and distribution genius who WB never should have let go when they stupidly shuttered Picturehouse) is no doubt the 81 rating on Metacritic and an 83% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes will lead to good word of mouth over the next few weeks. It's unclear if the film can really make a dent with Academy voters, but never discount Berney and his crew to surprise. Look for an interview with Bright Star director and Oscar winner Jane Campion later this week.
For constant updates on awards season and entertainment news follow Gregory Ellwood on Twitter at Twitter.com/HitFixGregory