Why Oscars could produce only 7 Best Picture nominees this year

Could this be the year with the fewest Oscars Best Picture nominations since the Academy went to a variable number of nominees in 2011?

With a system designed to create anywhere between five and 10 nominees, there’s no way to tell until Academy members vote and the ballots are tallied.

But TheWrap’s annual Oscars-style recount of the Critics’ Choice Awards ballots came up with an intriguing result this year: If the Academy’s preferential-style counting had been used on the Critics’ Choice best-picture ballots, it only would have produced seven nominees.

That’s fewer than the Oscars system has ever produced in the up-to-10 era, and fewer than we’ve ever come up with in six years of supervising an Oscar-style recount of the Critics’ Choice ballots.

12 PHOTOS
Our 11 Favorite Movies of 2017
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Our 11 Favorite Movies of 2017

Sweet, funny and a modern twist on the classic rom-com, "The Big Sick" is just about universally likable. While lighthearted, it carries a meaningful message that will ring true for parents and their adult children.

Emotionally prepare yourself before watching "The Florida Project," a top Oscar contender for the year. Poignant and aesthetically lovely, the sunny Orlando setting mirrors the cheerful energy of its young protagonist -- while contrasting the darkness of the adult world she lives in. Fingers crossed for an Oscar nom for little Brooklynn Prince, who at just 7 years old delivered one of the best performances of the year.
James and Dave Franco co-star in "The Disaster Artist," an unexpected film that leaves entire theater audiences in stitches. Whether or not you're familiar with cult classic "The Room," the bizarre real-life movie within this one, you'll be fascinated, bamboozled and quite entertained by James Franco's take on oddity filmmaker Tommy Wiseau.
"Spider-Man: Homecoming" may not go down as Marvel's most memorable movie -- but to be fair, there are a lot of them. It's fun and appropriately goofy while still packing a punch (literally and figuratively), and Tom Holland is (in our opinion) the best Spider-Man to date.

A tragic romance unlike any other painted on-screen, "Call Me By Your Name" explores the building sexual tension between two young men in 1981. In falling for the older, handsome Oliver, 17-year-old Elio finds himself longing to not only be with him but also be like him, attempting to transform his self-loathing into self-reflection.

As one of the biggest box-office hits of the year, Gal Gadot smashed superhero records with "Wonder Woman." It's a must-see for anyone who loves action, adventure and the kind of woman we all dream of calling a best friend or life partner.
Harrison Ford and Ryan Gosling make an unflappable duo in "Blade Runner 2049." Note: It'll make more sense -- and carry much more weight -- for anyone who's seen the original 1982 film.
It's not out yet in theaters, but movie critics are already giving the thumbs-up to "Star Wars: The Last Jedi." After teasing us with just a glimpse of Mark Hamill's Luke Skywalker at the end of "The Force Awakens," the eighth installment features Luke more heavily, much to fans' satisfaction.
Who doesn't love Reese Witherspoon? "Home Again" is one of her sweetest films to date, the perfect flick for a girls' night in (or to force your husband to watch with you). Her three young male co-stars aren't bad to look at, either.
Sequels often fall flat, but "Guardians of the Galaxy 2" managed to best its predecessor -- and not just because Baby Groot is so cute. Chris Pratt's undying charisma carries the film in one of Marvel's weirdest but most fun flicks to date.
Just about everyone who's seen "Lady Bird" wants Saoirse Ronan to snag a Best Actress nomination. It's similar to "Juno "(2007) but perhaps more true-to-life and edgy, with a compelling mother-daughter story that will leave you reflecting on your own teenage years.
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So history suggests that we’ll have eight or nine Oscar nominees again this year — but in a year in which a large number of films have only a shallow amount of support, as they did with the members of the Broadcast Film Critics Association who vote for the Critics’ Choice Awards, it’s possible to depress the number of nominees.

Here’s how the Critics’ Choice recount broke down, as performed by BFCA accountant Debby Britton from CMM, LLP under instructions provided by TheWrap. It’ll also serve to illustrate how the Oscar Best Picture vote works. (Sorry, things will get complicated now.)

For informational purposes, the Critics’ Choice actual voting system gives nominations to the top 10 vote-getters, which are listed here in order of their total number of nominations:

Fourteen nominations: “The Shape of Water”
Eight nominations: “Call Me by Your Name,” “Dunkirk,” “Lady Bird,” “The Post”
Six nominations: “The Big Sick,” “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
Five nominations: “Get Out”
Four nominations: “Darkest Hour”
Three nominations: “The Florida Project”

An Oscars-style count begins by counting the total number of ballots cast and finding the “magic number” required to guarantee a nomination. That is done by dividing the total number of ballots by 11 (the number of available nominations, plus one). Example: If 300 critics voted, the number would be 27.3. If the result is a whole number, you add 1; if it’s a decimal, you go up to the next highest whole number, in this hypothetical case, 28.

(The reason that’s the magic number is that 28 votes guarantees you’ll finish in the top 10, because it’s impossible for 11 films to each have that many votes if only 300 ballots are cast. In Oscar voting, the magic number for Best Picture will be closer to 600.)

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10 highest-grossing movies of 2017
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10 highest-grossing movies of 2017

10. “Justice League” — $635.9 million

For all the bashing the movie took from critics and the fans, this latest DC Comics movie was able to crack the top 10 (let’s check in a couple of weeks to see if “The Last Jedi” ruins the party). It’s the worst performer of any of the DC releases to date, but on the bright side, it likely won’t lose $100 million for Warner Bros. 

9. “It” — $697.5 million

Domestic: $327.4 million

WB couldn’t be more happy with how this adaptation of Stephen King’s book, made on a $35 million budget, performed at the box office. And it was a hit internationally, where horrors usually don’t do as strong.

8. “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” — $794.8 million

Domestic: $172.5 million

People in the US may have had enough of the “Pirates” franchise, but it’s still working overseas. So expect more.

7. "Wonder Woman" $821.8 million

Domestic: $412.5 million

It’s Warner Bros. crowning moment so far with its DC Comics franchise. The movie wasn’t just great, it was a beacon for the female empowerment movement going on in the country.

6. “Thor: Ragnarok” — $841.8 million

Domestic: $306.3 million

Marvel did a major pivot with the “Thor” movies and it worked. The wacky feel, lead by its director Taika Waititi, gave a spike in business to one of the few Marvel characters whose standalone movies were getting stale.

5. “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” — $863.5 million

Domestic: $389.8 million

This Marvel title, on the other hand, didn’t need any changes at all. This sequel to the overachieving original movie came back with more fun and sweet needle drops.

4. “Spider-Man: Homecoming” — $880.1 million

Domestic: $334.2 million

Sony teamed with Marvel Studios for its latest relaunch of Spidey and it was a masterful move. The inclusion of Tony Stark led to a light-hearted story and the franchise’s new Peter Parker, Tom Holland, did the rest with his charm.

3. “Despicable Me 3” — $1.03 billion

Domestic: $264.5 million

It wasn’t a great year for animated releases compared to the past couple. This is the only one that really knocked it out of the park around the world. Expect Universal and Illumination to call on Steve Carell to do more (and more Minions movies, too).

2. “The Fate of the Furious” — $1.23 billion

Domestic: $225.7 million

Not even infighting among the enormous stars of this franchise can stop its money making potential. It's pretty much bulletproof overseas, where the movie made $1 billion!

1. “Beauty and the Beast” — $1.26 billion

Domestic: $504 million

Disney’s process of doing live-action versions of its animated classics is going smoothly. 2016’s “Jungle Book” almost hit the $1 billion mark worldwide ($966.5 million) and “Beauty and the Beast” did this year. On deck: “Lion King.”

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On the ballot, BFCA voters were asked to rank their top five films in order of preference — but at this stage of the count, we’re only concerned with No. 1 choices. Any film that is not the first choice of at least one voter is eliminated from contention, regardless of how many No. 2 or No. 3 votes it receives.

According to Britton, 38 of this year’s films received first-place votes and remained in the running. That’s the same number as when we last did this recount two years ago, but 10 more than received first-place votes the previous year, and the most that have ever done so during the six years we’ve conducted this recount.

Any film with more than the magic number of first-place votes becomes an automatic nominee. Four films did so this year, a relatively large number to make the cut so quickly. (HFPA leadership would not allow Britton to reveal which films made the cut in each round.)

For instance: If “The Shape of Water” needed 28 votes to be nominated but it got 56, it really only required 50 percent of each of its votes to secure a slot. So on every ballot that included that film in the top spot, 50 percent of the vote would be shifted to the film ranked second on that ballot. If it got 20 percent more votes than it needed, then that 20 percent would be shifted to the No. 2 choice on each “Shape of Water” ballot.

If the No. 2 choice was no longer in the running because the film didn’t get any No. 1 votes and was already eliminated, or conversely because it had already secured a nomination, the accountants would go to the ballot’s highest-ranked film still in play.

This year, Britton said, two of the four films that clinched a first-round nomination also went into surplus. And once the surplus votes were reallocated, two more films passed the magic number to bring the total number of nominees to six.

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Disney Live-Action Movies in Production
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Disney Live-Action Movies in Production

Donald Glover will play Simba in the upcoming live-action adaption of "The Lion King," and James Earl Jones will reprise his role as Mufasa (!!!). According to Disney, the film is on the "fast track" through production and may arrive sooner rather than later. Jon Favreau will direct -- he also directed 2016's "The Jungle Book," so he's sure to crush it!

Credit: Disney

Now this is interesting: Disney is developing a story centered on Prince Charming (either from "Cinderella" or "Snow White"). There's a lot of work to be done there since the original men weren't exactly riveting characters.

Credit: Disney

In perfect casting news, Reese Witherspoon has signed on to play the sassy Neverland fairy in "Tink."

Credit: Disney

Your childhood crush is coming to life. The new "Aladdin" will reportedly be a brand-new take on the beloved story and is expected to seriously deviate from the original plot. In March 2017, Disney announced open casting calls to find their perfect Aladdin and Jasmine. They're looking for Middle Eastern actors, and shooting begins this summer.

Credit: Disney

We've seen remakes of "Peter Pan" before, but the magical story is slated for another upcoming live-action reboot. It's difficult to cast because not too many actors have pointed elf ears.

Credit: Disney

What's Christopher Robin up to now? The upcoming "Winnie the Pooh" adaption will show us: In this version, he'll be all grown up.

Credit: Disney

The live-action "Mulan" is currently in pre-production, and the actress taking on the title role hasn't yet been announced. It's scheduled for a 2018 release.

Credit: Disney

Disney is working on a real-life "Little Mermaid," and she better still be a redhead.

Credit: Disney

Emma Stone will play the evil Cruella in the 2018 flick. You've gotta assume she received offers for "The Little Mermaid," too, and she was like, nah, I know what I'm about.

Credit: Disney

Disney announced an "Aladdin" prequel that reveals Genie's backstory, but the plan was tabled (or maybe entirely scrapped) in favor of an Aladdin-focused story. We'll see if it moves back into development.

Credit: Disney

"The Sword in the Stone," released in 1963, is making its return! The story features King Arthur before he reigned supreme: He was an orphan who received special lessons from Merlin the wizard.

Credit: Disney

Tim Burton is directing the live-action "Dumbo," which means it may not be quite so cheery as the original.

Credit: Disney

The new adaption of "Pinocchio" will reportedly be only loosely based on the original story.

Credit: Disney

After the smash success of 2016's "The Jungle Book," it was no surprise that Disney decided to move forward with a sequel.

Credit: Disney

Angelina Jolie will return as Maleficent in a sequel to the 2014 film.

Credit: Disney

"Snow White," originally released in 1938, is getting a much-deserved remake. 

Credit: Disney

Did you know Snow White has a sister? Neither did we, but apparently her name is "Rose Red" and she's getting her own live-action movie. She hangs out with the dwarves after her Snow White meets her poisonous (temporary) end.

Credit: Disney

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STEP 3: Redistribution
At this point, any film picked No. 1 on fewer than 1 percent of the ballots is eliminated. (That probably means any movie with only one or two first-place votes, depending on how many BFCA members cast ballots.)

Of the 32 films still in play after the first four films secured nominations, Britton said that 20 fell below this 1 percent line. That’s an extremely large number of films to be eliminated at this stage. In past Critics’ Choice recounts, about half of the remaining films were typically knocked out of contention at this point, but this year almost two-thirds were — indicating that while a large number of movies got votes, their support was thin.

Ballots for those 20 films were then reallocated, with their full votes going to each critic’s No. 2 choice. Again, if that second choice had already been eliminated or had already secured a nomination, the vote would have gone to the highest-ranked film still in the running. If none of the 12 films remaining in contention were listed on the voter’s ballot, that ballot was discarded.

STEP 4: The 5 Percent Rule
Once the less-than-1-percent ballots were reallocated, every film that had more than 5 percent of the vote became a Best Picture nominee. Every film with less than that did not. (In our hypothetical example with 300 voters, 15 first-place votes would be enough to secure a nomination.)

When Britton ran those numbers, only one of the 12 remaining films crossed the 5 percent threshold. The remaining 11 films fell between 1 percent and 5 percent, and were not nominated.

This stage marked the biggest difference from previous years, in which between two and six films always secured nominations in this final count. This year, though, support remained shallow enough that a full 82 percent of the films that got first-place votes didn’t end up with enough votes to be nominated. (During the five previous recounts, that number was between 71 percent and 76 percent.)

Given the disparity between the critics and Oscars results over the years, there’s no certainty that the same thing will happen when the Academy votes. But in a year with lots of contenders but few dominant films it’s possible that the crucial redistribution rounds may have less impact, reducing the opportunities for films to secure nominations if they don’t get them right away.

We’ll know if Oscar voters will go a similar route when nominations are announced on January 23. Before that, on January 11, the Critic’ Choice Awards winners will be announced during a ceremony that will be broadcast live from Barker Hangar in Santa Monica on the CW.

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