Oscar 2014: Selma Omitted from Ten Nominees

The biggest shock of the Producers Guild nominations today was the omission of the Ava DuVernay-directed “Selma” from the 10 contenders list.

It turns out that Paramount sent DVD screeners to Academy voters in December, but not to the guilds. The film was also shut out from SAG Awards noms last month, again because voters hadn’t received screeners.

When Oscar moved its awards show a month earlier a decade ago, other kudos events also shifted — meaning studios since then have often run up against deadlines with their year-end openers. Paramount was waiting for final masters while PGA voting was held Dec. 1-Jan. 2. SAG voting was even earlier, Nov. 19-Dec. 8.

The Martin Luther King drama is one of the frontrunners in this year’s Oscar race and has already received feature nods from critics, the Golden Globes and Spirit Awards, among others. It’s possible “Selma” simply didn’t score enough PGA votes. But the screener factor seems a more likely explanation.

Warner’s “American Sniper,” which also opened December 25, did send out screeners and scored a nomination.

Ever since videocassettes were sent out in the late 1980s, execs at the Academy and studios have emphasized that they hope voters will see films on the bigscreen, saying that’s how they were intended to be seen. But voters have increasingly come to rely on screeners to catch up with contenders.

Aside from “Selma,” MIA titles include “Unbroken,” “Interstellar” and “Into the Woods.” But it’s not over yet. Last year, “Philomena” scored an Oscar nom for best picture, even though it was ignored by PGA.

All those films feature strong artisan work, and that’s always a factor in the Academy Awards, since below-the-line branches account for one-third of Oscar voters (2,067 this year).

Oscar ballots are due January 8, with nominations announced January 15.

PGA is a good predictor for the Oscar. Last year, eight of the PGA’s 10 nominees ended up with Academy Award nominations.  “12 Years a Slave” and “Gravity” tied for the top prize before Steve McQueen’s slavery drama went on to take best picture at the Oscars. Prior to that, the last six PGA winners won the top prize at the Academy Awards.

There were plenty of familiar titles in Monday’s PGA and Art Directors Guild voting, including such frequently-cited films as “Birdman,” “Boyhood,” “Foxcatcher,” “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” “The Imitation Game” and “The Theory of Everything.”

PGA announcements confirmed the variety of pictures that were nominated by including “Whiplash,” “Gone Girl” and “American Sniper”– a low-budget indie and two high-profile Hollywood hits.