Quintet's grosses near $900 million

Embracing big-scale, high-grossing major-studio releases, the Producers Guild of America has tapped “A Beautiful Mind,” “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” “Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring,” “Moulin Rouge” and “Shrek” as contenders for its best picture award.

In each of the past three years, three of the five PGA nominees went on to earn an Oscar nom for best pic. The winner of the PGA’s Darryl F. Zanuck Producer of the Year Award has gone on to win the Oscar for best picture in nine of the dozen years it’s been given, including “Gladiator” last year.

This year, the correlation may be more of a question mark, because of a change in voters: The PGA boosted its total membership by 300 to about 1,600, partly through its merger with the American Assn. of Producers.

The announcement represents another unpredictable turn in the wide-open race for honors hardware. As is often the case, the PGA offered more mainstream studio choices than the indie pics cited by critics groups, bypassing such crix groups’ best-pic winners as “In the Bedroom,” “Memento” and “Mulholland Drive.”

This year’s best-pic quintet has already generated combined domestic grosses of $869 million, compared with $381 million for last year’s nominees at the same point. Worldwide, their combined tally is about $1.9 billion.

Universal Pictures has “Beautiful Mind” domestically, while DreamWorks has it overseas. “Potter” is from Warner Bros., “Lord” is from its sister distrib New Line, and Fox has “Moulin Rouge.” DreamWorks is also represented by “Shrek,” which marks the first time an animated film has received a PGA citation.

HBO led in the PGA’s TV nominations, snagging six of 15 possible nods, including “The Sopranos” and “Six Feet Under” for drama series, “Sex and the City” for comedy series, with the pay-cabler’s “61*,” “Band of Brothers” and “Wit” as contenders for the David L. Wolper longform award.

The announcements on Thursday did not include names of producers, which will be announced Feb. 13. The PGA, which has campaigned in recent years for tightened standards on producer credits, is conducting an accreditation process in both the film and TV races.

Producers who are excluded will be allowed to file appeals within 48 hours of the announcement.

NBC took five nominations, including “Law & Order” and “The West Wing” in drama series and “Frasier,” “Friends” and “Will & Grace.” “The West Wing” won the Norman Felton award for drama series last year.

CBS’s “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” received a drama series nomination and Fox’s “Malcolm in the Middle” garnered a comedy series nom. ABC’s “Anne Frank” and “Life With Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows” took longform nominations.

This year’s previously announced PGA kudos include the Milestone Award for Robert Wise, lifetime achievement awards for Lawrence Gordon and Carsey-Werner-Mandabach and Hall of Fame recognition for “The Manchurian Candidate,” “Network,” “Happy Days” and “Maude.”

All the winners will be announced March 3 at the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles.

“All five nominated motion pictures share universal themes, compelling characters and embrace storytelling on a grand scale across a broad palette,” said PGA Awards co-chairs Bruce Cohen and Debra Hill.

The PGA noms were also a reliable indicator last year of best picture nominations by the Academy as PGA members tapped “Almost Famous,” “Billy Elliot,” “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and “Erin Brockovich,” along with “Gladiator.”

Other PGA winners that went on to take home an Oscar were “Driving Miss Daisy,” “Dances With Wolves,” “The Silence of the Lambs,” “Schindler’s List,” “Forrest Gump,” “The English Patient,” “Titanic” and “American Beauty.”

“Sex and the City” won the Danny Thomas comedy trophy last year when the PGA split the TV series awards for the first time; “The Sopranos” was 2000′s single series winner.

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