AFP - The race for the best picture Oscar at next year's Academy Awards will feature a bumper crop of 10 films after organizers announced they were doubling the number of nominees here Wednesday.
In a move designed to broaden competition for the entertainment industry's most coveted award, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences president Sid Ganis said the move was a throwback to the early years of the Oscars.
For more than a decade during the 1930s and 1940s, the best picture category featured more than five films, and in nine years there were 10 nominees.
The 16th Academy awards in 1943 was the last year to include a field of 10 films, and the Oscar for best picture then went to "Casablanca."
"After more than six decades the Academy is returning to some of its earlier roots when a wider field competed for the top award of the year," Ganis said.
"The final outcome will be the same -- one best picture winner -- but the race to the finish line will feature 10 not just five movies from 2009."
Ganis said the increase could allow for documentaries, foreign language or animated films to enter the running for the Oscars' top honor.
"Having 10 Best Picture nominees is going to allow Academy voters to recognize and include some of the fantastic movies that often show up in the other Oscar categories but have been squeezed out of the race for the top prize," Ganis said.
The decision to increase the field for the 82nd Academy Awards -- which take place on March 7, 2010 -- comes after this year's awards saw Batman blockbuster "The Dark Knight" controversially overlooked for a nomination.
The film, the highest-grossing movie of 2008 and featuring a spellbinding performance from late Australian actor Heath Ledger, was widely considered unlucky not to be nominated in a field which included "Slumdog Millionaire," "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," "The Reader," "Milk," "Frost/Nixon."
Ganis acknowledged that "The Dark Knight" had been mentioned when Academy officials met to discuss the decision to increase the field.
"In discussions about this we talked about what have happened, and I would not be telling you the truth if I said the words 'Dark Knight' did not come up," Ganis told reporters.
As well as "The Dark Knight," this year's Oscars also saw calls for Pixar's groundbreaking hit "Wall-E" to get a best picture nod, reflecting the increasing recognition of animated movies as serious artistic fare.