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Best-Picture Race Goes From 5 to 10 Films

The Academy Awards will be doubling down on the race for best picture.

Ten movies will compete for the top prize instead of the usual five, which has Hollywood feeling Oscar fever in the middle of summer as studios mull which films could benefit.

Sid Ganis, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, says the decision will widen the field to include more genres often left out. Last time, those in the close-but-no-cigar group included "The Dark Knight", "WALL-E" and "Vicky Cristina Barcelona".

Though there will still be only one winner, more sci-fi, animation and comedies could make the list - good news for "Star Trek", "Up" and "500 Days of Summer". It's also good for low-budget movies that enter the race with only a small group of fervent fans.

"Now a movie like 'The Visitor' has a legitimate shot, when it never would have had the resources to compete against something like 'Benjamin Button,'" says film journalist David Poland of MovieCityNews.com. "You're going to see opportunity there for movies of all kinds, which include 'Star Trek,' or 'Up,' or 'The Dark Knight.' Now you'll see foreign language films actually be in the main race every few years."

But will adding contenders dilute the value of the nomination?

"I don't think it diminishes it at all," says DreamWorks spokesman Chip Sullivan. "I think it just enhances it by opening the race to filmmakers with different voices."

This is the biggest change to the ceremony in nearly six decades and part of the academy's effort to enliven the 82-year-old ceremony. "It's inviting more people to the party, inviting more people to compete ... Tradition is great until the public says "(Yawn!) I've seen that,' " Ganis says, stretching his arms in mock sleepiness.

The ratings for February's broadcast - with Hugh Jackman hosting and "Slumdog Millionaire" winning best picture - rose slightly with an average 36.3 million viewers, though ratings generally had declined in recent years.

The change is a break from tradition, but it's not without precedent. In 1943, the year "Casablanca" won best picture, there were 10 nominees. Ever since, the academy has put up only five.

For more than an decade before that, the number of nominated films fluctuated from eight to 12.

Nominees will be unveiled Feb. 2, and the ceremony is March 7.

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