Every year, when the Academy makes a membership count just before Oscar nomination voting begins, TheWrap uses those figures to determine how many votes it’ll take to receive an Oscar nomination in each of the 23 categories.
This year, the answer is easy: It’ll take just about what it took last year.
Now that the Academy has stopped inviting huge groups of new members each year, which it did for six straight years beginning in 2016, the organization is growing more slowly. Only 92 more members are eligible to vote in 2023 than in 2022, and those are spread out across the 17 Academy branches that handle nominations in the majority of Oscar categories.
In six different categories – cinematography, costume design, film editing, sound and the two writing categories – there has been no change in the number of votes it takes to land a nomination; in four other categories, this year’s magic number is only one more than last year’s was.
The biggest change, naturally, was in the only category where everybody can vote in the nominating round, Best Picture. If every member votes, it’ll take 871 votes to secure a nomination this year, eight more than the 863 it took last year.
Before we get into the category-by-category breakdown, a reminder: When we say it takes 871 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’re 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, 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 5+1=6.) Round the result up to the next highest number to get the “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. 12.
If all 9,579 eligible voters cast ballots in this category, it would take 871 No. 1 votes to guarantee a nomination. But even if a film doesn’t have that many first-place votes in the initial count, it will likely 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 1,336 to 1,302 this year, which means that the magic number fell as well, from 223 to 218. If every one of the 1,302 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 867 voting members, making it the second-largest Academy branch. Normally that would mean that 145 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 out of the 27 that qualified. The number required to land a nomination depends entirely on how many members participated in that process.
The branch has 290 current voting members, the same as last year. That means 49 first-place votes lands a nomination, the same as in 2022.
Best Costume Design
With 169 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 and Marketing and Public Relations Branches, as well as Members-at-Large, that branch’s members can only vote to nominate Best Picture.) While the size of the branch dropped by two 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 573 voters in the Directors Branch, which means that 96 votes will guarantee a nomination if they all vote. (That’s one more than last year.)
Best Documentary Feature
After a first round of voting narrowed the field of 144 qualifying films to a 15-film shortlist, the 648 members of the Documentary Branch pick their five favorites. If they all cast ballots, it’ll take 108 votes to be nominated.
Best Documentary Short
The same 648 members of the doc branch are eligible to vote now that the 98 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 108.
Best Film Editing
With 376 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 92 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 members see all the films and vote.
Best Makeup and Hairstyling
The branch has 236 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 40 votes to secure a nomination, one more than last year.
Best Original Score, Best Original Song
The Music Branch contains 388 voting members. The 147 eligible scores and 81 eligible songs went through an initial round of voting that narrowed the contenders to two shortlists of 15. In the nomination round of voting, assuming everybody votes, the magic number to land a nomination will be 65.
Best Production Design
The branch has 390 members, so 66 votes will be enough for a nomination.
With 549 members in the Sound Branch, a drop of one since last year, the nomination threshold remains at 92 votes.
Best Visual Effects
There are 615 members of the branch, which would mean a magic number of 103 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 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 510 voting members, meaning it requires 86 votes to guarantee a writing nomination.
Best Animated Short, Best Live-Action Short
The Short Films and Feature Animation Branch has 867 voting members. All of them were eligible to score the qualifying films to determine two 15-film shortlists, one drawn from the 81 eligible animated shorts and one from the 200 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, 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 145 votes in animation and 434 in live-action. But in reality, it’s likely far lower.
Nomination voting will begin on Thursday, Jan. 12 and close on Tuesday, Jan. 17. Nominations will be announced on Tuesday, Jan. 24.