More than three credits allowed in rare cases

Oscar is tweaking its rules about the number of producers allowed for best picture nominees and winners.

In an announcement Wednesday, the governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences said they had approved an exception to its rule limiting the number of credited producers to three.

The move follows flaps earlier this year over the number of eligible producers for “Little Miss Sunshine” and “The Departed.”

In its announcement, the Acad reiterated that only “three or fewer producers who have performed the major portion of the producing functions” are eligible to be nominated for best picture — but now there’s an exception. The board approved the producers branch executive committee’s recommendation that, in a rare and extraordinary circumstance, an additional qualified producer can be a nominee.

“The committee and the governors believe strongly that it’s very important to have a limit on the number of producers who can be nominated and potentially receive an Oscar statuette,” said Academy president Sid Ganis. “But we also recognize that a truly unique situation could arise, and we want to have just enough flexibility to allow for that rare occurrence.”

In the Acad’s early days, the studio took home the picture Oscar, but that changed in 1951, when the producer was named in the nominations and received the trophy. For decades, there were only a handful of producers on each film, but as the business changed, the tallies went up.

After five individuals went onstage in 1999 to accept the picture Oscar for “Shakespeare in Love,” the Academy limited the number to three. While that limit affected such films as “Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King,” “Crash” and “The Aviator,” the debate became more heated this year with “Sunshine” and eventual winner “The Departed.”

The rule came under particular scrutiny because of the divergence between the AMPAS policy and that of the Producers Guild of America. Since 2005, the Acad has used PGA research and guidelines in allocating credits but the PGA doesn’t have a cap on the number of producers honored for a film.

The PGA chose “Little Miss Sunshine” for its top feature prize and honored all five producers, but the Acad recognized only Marc Turtletaub, David Friendly and Peter Saraf, excluding Albert Berger and Ron Yerxa.

The PGA had no comment Wednesday about the Acad’s announcement.

In other rules news, an animation film was further defined in an age of constantly changing technologies. For Oscar consideration, animated films must run at least 70 minutes, and movement and characters’ performances must be created using frame-by-frame technique. Also, a significant number of the major characters must be animated, and animation must figure in no less than 75% of the picture’s running time.

In the art direction category, an exception now allows for two production designers or two set decorators to receive noms for their work on a given film, but not both. In the past, the rule allowed for only one production designer, though two set decorators could be nominated in rare cases.

The Oscars are set for Feb. 24 at the Kodak with nominations announced on Jan. 22.

(Dave McNary contributed to this report.)

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