We now have a date for exactly when we'll know who’s going to win next year's Best Picture Oscar: Jan. 21, 2012.
The Producers Guild of America has set that date for its 23rd annual Producers Guild Awards — honors that have become one of the most reliable predictors of Academy Award success, particularly since the PGA followed the Academy and expanded its best-picture slate from five to 10 nominees.
At the same time that it made that change, the PGA also instituted the same preferential ballot-counting system used by the Academy, making the PGA Awards the only guild honors to have the same number of nominees as the Oscars and use the same method for tallying votes.
In the two years since the change has made, the PGA Awards provided crucial tests of the strength of "The Hurt Locker" and "The King's Speech," both of which won upset victories (over "Avatar" and "The Social Network," respectively) on their way to the eventual Oscar triumphs.
For "The King's Speech," the win came after "The Social Network" had enjoyed an unprecedented sweep through the critics awards and Golden Globes, making it the Oscar frontrunner in the eyes of most observers. The PGA was the first clear sign that guild and Academy voters would not be agreeing with the critical consensus this year.
More than two-thirds of the PGA winners — including the last four in a row — have gone on to win the Oscar for Best Picture.
Typically, the Producers Guild hands out three film awards (Theatrical Motion Picture, Animated Theatrical Motion Picture and Documentary Theatrical Motion Picture), five television awards and an array of special honors.
The PGA ceremony will take place on Saturday, Jan. 21 at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza hotel. This year's PGA Awards were originally scheduled for the Hyatt Regency as well, although a continuing labor dispute at the hotel caused the PGA to move the ceremony to the Beverly Hilton instead.
The awards are generally the first of the major Hollywood guild honors, presented after the Golden Globes but before the Directors Guild, Writers Guild and Screen Actors Guild Awards. (SAG has set its 2012 awards for Jan. 29.) Barring the kind of shift in the Academy calendar that AMPAS says will not happen in 2012, the PGA will also hand out its awards prior to Oscar nominations.
NOTE: The original version of this story said that the PGA Awards would take place on Sunday, January 22, 2012. That version took its information from an incorrect PGA press release.