Every year, once the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences’ branch counts are in, we ask a simple question: How many votes does it take to get an Oscar nomination this year?
If you were paying attention last year, you already know the answer, more or less. Three of the categories require exactly the same number of votes as they did a year ago, while the magic number in 15 of the 23 categories is within two votes of the 2022 figures.
The Academy grew in size by less than 200 voters over the past year, and the biggest influx came in a new branch, Production and Technology, that doesn’t have its own category. Most of the 18 branches grew only modestly, and that means most categories take about the same number votes as before.
The biggest change, naturally, was in the only category where everybody can vote in the nominating round, Best Picture. If everybody votes, it’ll take 891 votes to secure a nomination this year, 20 more than the 871 it took last year.
Before we get into the category-by-category breakdown, a reminder: When we say it takes 891 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. (In the Best Picture category, they are allowed to list up to 10 choices.) After the first-place votes are added up, the lowest-ranking films are eliminated from contention, and their ballots are redistributed to the film ranked second on each ballot.
(If the second choice has also been eliminated, or if it’s already hit the magic number and secured a nomination, the vote goes to the next highest contender on the ballot.)
The redistribution continues until the field is narrowed to the final five nominees, or the final 10 for Best Picture.
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 every case except Best Picture, that means you divide by six, or 5+1.) 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 Jan. 11. Note: as the count goes on, the magic number can decrease.
If all 9,797 eligible voters cast ballots in this category, it would take 891 No. 1 votes to guarantee a nomination. But while it’s unrealistic to expect many films to have that many first-place votes in the initial count, contenders will probably have many rounds to pick up additional votes as other films are eliminated.
Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress
The size of the Actors Branch fell from 1,302 to 1,294 members this year, which means that the magic number fell as well, from 218 to 217. If every one of the voters in the Academy’s largest branch casts a ballot, that’s how many votes it’ll take to land a nomination in each of the Oscars’ four acting categories.
Best Animated Feature
The Short Films and Feature Animation Branch has 888 voting members, making it the second-largest Academy branch. Normally that would mean that 178 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 four groups, and each group was required to see an assigned group of eight or nine films out of the 33 that qualified. The number required to land a nomination depends entirely on how many members participated in that process.
The branch has 293 current voting members, three more than last year. That means 49 first-place votes lands a nomination, the same as the last two years.
Best Costume Design
With 172 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.) While the size of the branch increased by three members since last year, the magic number remained unchanged: A costume-design nomination can still be secured with only 29 votes, fewer than any other category.
There are now 587 voters in the Directors Branch, which means that 98 votes will guarantee a nomination if they all vote. (That’s two more than last year.)
Best Documentary Feature
After a first round of voting narrows the field of 167 qualifying films to a 15-film shortlist, the 680 members of the Documentary Branch will pick their five favorites. If they all cast ballots, it’ll take 114 votes to be nominated, six more than last year.
Best Documentary Short
The same 680 members of the doc branch will be eligible to vote once the 114 doc-short contenders have been narrowed to a 15-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 114.
Best Film Editing
With 377 members of the Film Editors Branch, you need 63 votes to secure a nod.
Best International Feature Film
This category is also open to volunteer members from all branches of the Academy. AMPAS never reveals how many participate, though it’s likely to be fewer than 1,000 members, and possibly significantly fewer. After the field of 88 contenders is narrowed to a 15-film shortlist, voting will be 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 members see all the films and vote.
Best Makeup and Hairstyling
The branch has 242 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 41 votes to secure a nomination, one more than last year.
Best Original Score, Best Original Song
The Music Branch contains 394 voting members. The 147 eligible scores and 94 eligible songs are going through an initial round of voting that will narrow the contenders to two shortlists of 15. In the nomination round of voting, the magic number for Diane Warren to land her 15th nomination or Thomas Newman to receive his 16th will be 66, assuming they’re shortlisted and everybody votes.
Best Production Design
The branch has 403 members, so 68 votes will be enough for a nomination.
With 556 members in the Sound Branch, an increase of seven since last year, the nomination threshold goes up one to 93 votes.
Best Visual Effects
There are 637 members of the branch, which would mean a magic number of 107 if the Visual Effects 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 are 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 ranked-choice 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. At no point in the count does a magic number come into play.
Best Original Screenplay, Best Adapted Screenplay
The Writers Branch has 522 voting members, meaning it requires 87 votes to guarantee a writing nomination.
Best Animated Short, Best Live-Action Short
The Short Films and Feature Animation Branch has 888 voting members. All of them were eligible to score the qualifying films to determine two 15-film shortlists, one for animated shorts and one for 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, Producers and Writers Branches 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, Producers and Writers Branches) participates, that would mean a magic number of 148 votes in animation and 442 in live-action. But in reality, it’s far lower.
Nomination voting will begin on Thursday, Jan. 11 and close on Tuesday, Jan. 16. Nominations will be announced on Tuesday, Jan. 23.