Every December, the academy updates its branch totals in anticipation of voting for Oscar nominations, which kicks off this year on Jan. 7 and runs until January 14. Nominations will be announced on Jan. 22 and the 91st annual Academy Awards take place on February 24.
This year, a record 7,902 academy members can take part in deciding the Oscars. That is up by 642 from last year’s total tally of 7,258 members and by 1,215 from those who voted on the 2017 Oscars. And it is about one-third more than the 5,856 voters who were eligible to take part in 2014. This uptick in membership is the result of the decision by the academy to do away with the cap that allowed only for replacement of those members who had died or declined to renew.
We know the introduction of online voting has increased participation to record levels. Assuming all academy members take part in the process, we can calculate the “Initial Magic Number” of votes needed for a nomination in the various categories.
Seven categories — Animated Feature, Foreign-Language Feature, Makeup & Hairstyling, Visual Effects, and the three Shorts (Animated, Documentary, Live-Action) — require attendance at special screenings and those various methods of nomination are detailed at the bottom of this post.
For all other categories except Best Picture (which can have up to 10 nominees and uses a different method of counting), this “Initial Magic Number” is calculated by dividing the number of ballots cast by six and adding one (i.e., if five contenders each get this number of first-place votes, it is mathematically impossible for a sixth to do so — read a detailed description of this method of counting).
All 7,902 members can cast ballots for Best Picture
“Initial Magic Number”: 719
(Read a detailed description of the method of counting.)
Five branches vote only in this race (and can take part in the selection process for Animated Feature and Foreign-Language Feature if they so choose):
Casting Directors Branch: 117 members (up from 113)
Executive Branch: 527 members (up from 499)
Members-At-Large: 338 members (up from 264)
Producers Branch: 552 members (up from 524)
Public Relations Branch: 455 members (up from 416)
These branches total 1,989 members and mean that 25% of the academy roster have no Academy Awards category to call their own. Last year, 1,916 members were Oscar orphans.
BEST ACTOR, BEST ACTRESS, BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR, BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Actors Branch: 1,305 members (up from 1,218)
“Initial Magic Number”: 218
Directors Branch: 519 members (up from 512)
“Initial Magic Number”: 87
BEST SOUND EDITING, BEST SOUND MIXING
Sound Branch: 506 members (up from 487)
“Initial Magic Number”: 85
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY, BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Writers Branch: 445 members (up from 422)
“Initial Magic Number”: 75
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Documentary Branch: 400 members (up from 320)
“Initial Magic Number”: 67
Each branch member receives DVD screeners of the 166 entries and is assigned to watch one-fifth of these but encouraged to view as many as they can. Members list their top 15 picks on a preferential ballot and those results are compiled and produce a short list of 15 contenders. All members are encouraged to watch the films on this list that they have not yet seen and cast preferential ballots with their top five choices.
BEST SCORE, BEST SONG
Music Branch: 331 members (up from 305)
“Initial Magic Number”: 56
A reminder list of the 156 eligible scores and a DVD with excerpts of the 90 eligible songs is sent to the branch members. Members list their top picks on a preferential ballot and those results are compiled and produce a short list of 15 contenders in each category.
BEST FILM EDITING
Film Editors Branch: 323 members (up from 298)
“Initial Magic Number”: 54
BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
Designers Branch: 322 members (up from 308)
“Initial Magic Number”: 54
Cinematographers Branch: 264 members (up from 246)
“Initial Magic Number”: 45
BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Costume Designers Branch: 153 members (up from 128)
“Initial Magic Number”: 26
Seven categories have special rules as detailed below:
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Voting on this award is restricted to academy members from any branch who volunteer to be on the screening committee and attest to having watched the 26 entries. Members rank their top five choices and a multi-step system of counting winnows the various contenders down to the final five nominees.
BEST ANIMATED SHORT, BEST LIVE-ACTION SHORT
Short Films and Feature Animation Branch: 659 members (up from 565)
Voting on these two awards is done in two stages. First, branch members who volunteer to be on the screening committees watch the animated and live-action shorts submitted; last year there were 81 and 140 entries respectively. Members scored each film from 6 (poor) to 10 (excellent) and the 10 highest ranked above 7.5 go on to the second stage. All members of the branch are invited to screenings of these 10 semi-finalists and a preferential ballot will determine the five nominees.
BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT
Documentary Branch: 400 members (up from 320)
Voting on this award is done in two stages. First, branch members who volunteered to be on the screening committee watched the 104 documentary shorts submitted. Members scored each film from 6 (poor) to 10 (excellent) and the 10 highest ranked above 7.5 go on to the second stage. All members of the branch will be invited to screenings of these 10 semi-finalists and a preferential ballot will determine the five nominees.
BEST FOREIGN-LANGUAGE FEATURE
Voting on this award is restricted to academy members from any branch who volunteer to be on the screening committee and watch upwards of a dozen of the 87 submissions for Foreign Language Film over a two-month period. They will score them from 6 to 10 and their top six vote-getters will made it to the next round, as will three films added by the 20 members of the executive committee. These nine semi-finalists will be screened three per day beginning in early January for academy members in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and London and will also be available online. Those who can attest to seeing all the semi-finalists can vote for the final five nominees. The entire academy membership will get screeners of the five nominated films and can vote for the winner.
BEST MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING
Makeup & Hairstyling Branch: 189 members (up from 183)
Nominations are determined in two stages. First, upwards of 15 members of the branch who attend special screenings cast preferential ballots with the top seven vote-getters moving on to the second stage. Those members from the first stage and any other members who either attend screenings of excerpts from these seven semi-finalists or attest that they have seen them cast preferential ballots and the top three films are nominated.
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
Visual Effects Branch: 497 members (up from 450)
The executive committee of the branch determines the 10 semi-finalists. All members of the branch are invited to a screening of excerpts from these 10 films at which potential nominees may discuss their work. Ballots are counted using a system of re-weighted range voting to determine the five nominees.
Be sure to make your Oscar nomination predictions so that Hollywood studio executives can see how their films are faring in our Academy Awards odds. Don’t be afraid to jump in now since you can keep changing your predictions until just before nominees are announced on January 22.