The Academy has made a final count of its members leading into the beginning of Oscar nomination voting on Friday, with 9,300 members eligible to cast ballots for this year’s awards. That’s 62 fewer voters than in the count that was made in December, with the reduction due to some members retiring or moving to the non-voting emeritus classification and others dying.
The number of Oscar voters has still topped 9,000 for the first time since the mid-1940s, when the Academy allowed members of the Hollywood guilds to vote. And the total number of members, which includes non-voting associate members and emeritus members, remains above the 10,000 mark at 10,276.
And with the full count available for all the Academy’s branches, it’s time for TheWrap’s annual look at how many votes it takes to get an Oscar nomination. As always, it’s not as many as you might expect, because nominees in most of the categories are selected by one of the Academy’s 17 branches; the entire membership votes only in the Best Picture category.
Given the current size of the Academy, a nomination in the Best Picture category will require the most votes, 465, while Best Costume Design requires the fewest, 28.
But when we say it only takes 465 votes for a Best Picture nomination, we’re talking about first-place votes. Under the Oscars preferential or ranked-choice system, a voter typically lists his or her top five choices in order of preference — but the vote only goes to the film ranked first on each ballot, unless that film has already secured a nomination or been eliminated from contention.
In that case, the ballot will count for the voter’s second choice, or for the highest-ranked film on the ballot that’s still in the running. In most categories apart from Best Picture, the redistribution continues until the field is narrowed to the final five nominees.
To figure out the magic number for each category, you take the number of potential voters in that category and divide by the number of nominees, plus one. (In almost every case, that means 5+1=6.) You round the result up to the next highest number, and that gives you a “magic number” that ensures a film or achievement will be in the top five.
Here’s the breakdown of what it’ll take to land a nomination in each category when voting begins on March 5.
If all 9,300 eligible voters cast ballots in this category, it would take 846 No. 1 votes to guarantee a nomination after the initial round of counting.
But Best Picture uses a unique method that can result in anywhere from 5 to 10 nominees. It requires the accountants from PwC to redistribute ballots whose first choice received significantly more than 930 votes, and also ones whose first choice received 92 votes or fewer.
After that redistribution, any film with more than five percent of the vote — which is to say, any film with at least 465 votes — will become a nominee.
Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress
If every one of the 1,359 voters in the Academy’s largest branch casts a ballot, it’ll take 227 votes to land a nomination in each of the Oscars’ four acting categories.
Best Animated Feature
The Short Films and Feature Animation Branch has 818 voting members, making it the second-largest Academy branch. Normally that would mean that 137 votes would secure a nomination.
But voting in this category is open not only to all members of the branch, but to all Academy members outside the branch who volunteer to take part in the voting. Prospective voters were divided into three groups, and each group was required to see an assigned group of nine films, which was one-third of the 27 films that initially qualified. (When “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run” withdrew, one group had its required viewing list reduced to eight.)
The number required to land a nomination depends entirely on how many members participated in that process.
The branch has 282 current voting members. That means 48 first-place votes lands a nomination.
Best Costume Design
With 167 members, costume designers make up the smallest Academy branch that votes for its own award. (The Casting Directors Branch is smaller, but there’s no casting award at the Oscars — so like members of the Executives, Marketing and Public Relations and Producers Branches, as well as Members-at-Large, that branch’s members can only vote to nominate Best Picture.) A costume-design nomination can be secured with only 28 votes, fewer than any other category.
There are now 564 voters in the Directors Branch, which means that 95 votes will guarantee a nomination if they all vote.
Best Documentary Feature
After a first round of voting narrowed the field of 240 qualifying films to a 15-film shortlist, the 595 members of the Documentary Branch pick their five favorites. If they all cast ballots, it’ll take 100 votes to be nominated.
Best Documentary Short
The same 586 members of the doc branch are eligible to vote now that the 114 doc-short contenders have been narrowed to a 10-film shortlist. It’s highly unlikely that everyone in the branch will watch the eligible shorts and vote — but if they were to do that, the magic number would again be 100.
Best Film Editing
With 364 members of the Film Editors Branch, you need 62 votes to secure a nod.
Best International Feature Film
This category is also open to volunteer members from all branches of the Academy, and it’s impossible to determine how many will participate. After the field of 93 contenders was narrowed to a 15-film shortlist, voting is open to any member who sees all 15 of those films, which are available on the Academy’s members website. The magic number will depend entirely on how many participate.
Best Makeup and Hairstyling
The branch has 224 voting members. Voting is restricted to members who viewed a special presentation of clips, or members who have seen all 10 shortlisted films. If every member of the branch participates in one of those ways, it would take 38 votes to secure a nomination.
Best Original Score, Best Original Song
The Music Branch contains 374 voting members. The 136 eligible scores and 105 eligible songs went through an initial round of voting that narrowed the contenders to two shortlists of 15. In the nomination round of voting, the magic number to land a nomination will be 63.
Best Production Design
The branch has 382 members, so 64 votes will be enough for a nomination.
With 536 members in the Sound Branch, which will be voting in a single Best Sound category rather than in separate categories for sound mixing and sound editing, the nomination threshold is 90 votes.
Best Visual Effects
There are 586 members of the branch, which would mean a magic number of 97 if the VFX branch calculated nominations the way most of the other branches do. But it doesn’t.
An executive committee first narrows the field down to 20 films, and then to a shortlist of 10. Clips from those films were then screened virtually for members of the branch, followed by brief discussions with the VFX artists responsible for the work.
Members then cast ballots to select the five nominees — but instead of the preferential system, the branch uses reweighted range voting, which divides each individual score by the total score given to all candidates on that ballot. The idea is to identify the films that score strongest against the rest of the field, but at no point in the count does a magic number come into play.
Best Original Screenplay, Best Adapted Screenplay
The Writers Branch has 499 voting members, meaning it requires 84 votes to guarantee a writing nomination.
Best Animated Short, Best Live-Action Short
The Short Films and Feature Animation Branch has 818 voting members, all of whom were eligible to score the qualifying films to determine two 10-film shortlists, one drawn from the 96 eligible animated shorts and one from the 174 eligible live-action shorts. Members of the branch who see all the shortlisted films can then vote for the final five nominees. Members of the Directors Branch are also invited to participate in voting in the Best Live-Action Short category.
In the unlikely event that the entire branch (and the entire Directors Branch) participates, that would mean a magic number of 137 votes in animation and 231 in live-action. But in reality, it’s likely far lower.
Nomination voting will begin on Friday, March 5 and close on Wednesday, March 10. Nominations will be announced on Monday, March 15.
Here is the official branch count as of March 1, 2021:
Casting Directors: 142
Costume Designers: 167
Film Editors: 371
Makeup Artists and Hairstylists: 224
Marketing and Public Relations: 587
Production Designers: 382
Short Films and Feature Animation: 818
Visual Effects: 580
Total voting members: 9,300
Associate Members: 95
Total active members: 9,395
Emeritus members: 881
Total members: 10,276
FOR THE RECORD: The original version of this story was based on a branch count supplied by the Academy and dated March 1, 2021. On March 5, the first day of voting, the Academy supplied a new branch count that included 173 more voters than the March 1 count. The numbers in this story have been adjusted to reflect the March 5 totals.