Epics, high-grossers favored; HBO dominates

See nomineesTaking an unpredictable turn in the season’s wide-open race for feature honors, the Producers Guild of America has opted mostly for large-scale and high-grossing releases as nominees for its best picture award.

The PGA finalists for its Darryl F. Zanuck Producer of the Year kudos are Sony’s “Adaptation,” Miramax’s “Chicago” and “Gangs of New York,” IFC’s “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” DreamWorks’ “Road to Perdition” and New Line’s “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.”

In voting by the org’s 1,800 members, two of the pics tied for fifth, leading to the first time that six features have been nominated.

The PGA noms are a closely watched indicator of Oscar sentiment, since the org includes a significant number of voters who are also members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. Three of the five PGA nominations in 2002 also received Oscar noms, and the PGA winner has gone on to win the best picture Oscar in nine of the PGA award’s 13 years.

Those double winners are “Driving Miss Daisy,” “Dances With Wolves,” “The Silence of the Lambs,” “Schindler’s List,” “Forrest Gump,” “The English Patient,” “Titanic,” “American Beauty” and “Gladiator.”

But the PGA opted last year for “Moulin Rouge” while “A Beautiful Mind” took home the Oscar. Other splits came when the PGA tapped “Saving Private Ryan,” “Apollo 13″ and “The Crying Game,” while the Oscar went to, respectively, “Shakespeare in Love,” “Braveheart” and “Unforgiven.”

The 2003 nominees include a pair of pics, “Two Towers” and “Greek Wedding,” that have grossed well over $200 million each domestically, while “Road to Perdition” hit $104 million and “Gangs of New York” is nearing $60 million. “Chicago” has grossed more than $17 million in limited release with exceptional per-engagemement averages, portending strong BO in coming weeks.

By contrast, “Adaptation” has remained mostly below the public radar. In its first major expansion last weekend, “Adaptation” took in $2.6 million at 560 playdates to push its cume to $9.2 million.

“We’re very glad the PGA members did not let the lack of grosses affect their voting,” said “Adaptation” producers Ed Saxon and Vincent Landay. “There are so many great films out there this year, so this is really the little movie that could.”

Critical faves ignored

PGA voters snubbed a long list of critical favorites — mostly smaller-scale releases — including Paramount’s “The Hours,” New Line’s “About Schmidt,” Focus’ “Far From Heaven” and “The Pianist,” Miramax’s “The Quiet American,” Fox Searchlight’s “Antwone Fisher,” UA’s “Nicholas Nickleby,” DreamWorks’ “Catch Me if You Can,” Universal’s “About a Boy” and Fox’s “Minority Report.”

Thursday’s announcement at the Century Plaza represented the first time the PGA unveiled its noms in a live news conference. “Greek Wedding” producer Rita Wilson and “The West Wing” star Bradley Whitford emceed.

HBO dominates

HBO dominated TV noms, snagging nine of a possible 20 with “Six Feet Under” and “The Sopranos” in drama series, “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “Sex and the City” for comedy series, “Live From Baghdad,” “Path to War,” “The Gathering Storm” and “The Laramie Project” in longform and “Project Greenlight” in the new reality/game/informational category.

Fox took three noms with “24” in drama, “Malcolm in the Middle” in comedy and “American Idol” in reality. CBS scored a pair (“CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” in drama and “Everybody Loves Raymond” in comedy) as did NBC (“The West Wing” in drama, “Will & Grace” in comedy) and A&E (“Shackleton” in longform, “Biography” in reality).

PBS took a nom for “Frontline” in reality, as did MTV for “The Osbournes.”

“The West Wing” has won the last two Norman Felton awards for drama, while “Sex and the City” has taken home the last two Danny Thomas awards for comedy.

Producers named later

The announcements did not include the names of producers, which will be disclosed in several weeks after the PGA completes its accreditation process. Org has been campaigning in recent years to tighten standards on such credits.

“The PGA stands for fair credit for the work performed,” said guild prexy Kathleen Kennedy. She indicated the org is continuing to move toward setting up a formal accreditation process to cover films beyond the awards, but gave no timetable.

The winners will be announced March 2 at the PGA Awards ceremonies at the Century Plaza.

And the Nominees Are…

Film

Darryl F. Zanuck Producer of the Year
Adaptation (Sony)
Chicago (Miramax)
Gangs of New York (Miramax)
My Big Fat Greek Wedding (IFC Films)
Road to Perdition (Dreamworks)
Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (New Line)

Television

Norman Felton Producer of the Year Award in Episodic Television (Drama)
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (CBS)
Six Feet Under (HBO)
The Sopranos (HBO)
24 (Fox)
The West Wing (NBC)

Danny Thomas Producer of the Year Award in Episodic Television (Comedy)
Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO)
Everybody Loves Raymond (CBS)
Malcolm in the Middle (FOX)
Sex and the City (HBO)
Will & Grace (NBC)

David L. Wolper Producer of the Year Award in Longform Television
Live From Baghdad (HBO)
Path to War (HBO)
The Gathering Storm (HBO)
The Laramie Project (HBO)
Shackleton (A&E)

Producer of the Year Award in Reality/Game/Informational Series
American Idol (FOX)
Biography (A&E)
Frontline (PBS)
The Osbournes (MTV)
Project Greenlight (HBO)

The Milestone Award
Jack Valenti
The Milestone Award is the PGA’s most prestigious honor and recognizes industry leaders for their historical contribution to the entertainment industry.

David O. Selznick Lifeteime Achievement Award In Theatrical Motion Pictures
Robert Evans
The David O. Selznick Lifetime Achievement Award in Theatrical Motion Pictures is conferred upon a producer whose overall body of work represents a significant achievement in theatrical motion pictures.

David Susskind Lifetime Achievement Award In Television
Bud Yorkin
The David Susskind Lifetime Achievement Award in Theatrical Motion Pictures is conferred upon a producer whose overall body of work represents a significant achievement in television.

The Vanguard Award
George Lucas
This is the second year the PGA will present The Vanguard Award, which recognizes outstanding achievement in new media and technology.

The Visionary Award
Rita Wilson for “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”
This is the second year the PGA will present The Visionary Award, which honors producers of either television or film whose work demonstrates a “unique or uplifting quality.”

The Stanley Kramer Award
Todd Black & Denzel Washington for “Antwone Fisher”
This is the second year the PGA will present The Stanley Kramer Award, which was established to honor a producer whose work illuminates provocative social issues in an accessible and elevating fashion.

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