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Oscar Nominations: Why "Dreamgirls" Missed Best Picture

I was up bright and early yesterday morning reporting on the Oscar nominations. It was a madhouse, with some 240 reporters there to capture Selma Hayek's announcement.

Everyone's up in arms about why Paramount/Dreamworks' "Dreamgirls" didn't get a Best Picture nomination. No, it's not racism; no, it's not that the music wasn't good. There's a perfectly good explanation that tells a lot about how the Academy's nomination process works. When voting for nominations, Academy members rank their top five choices -- their top choices holding more power than third or fourth choices. So if a lot of people put "Dreamgirls" as their fourth or fifth choice, and if the other films had very strong supporters, even if there were fewer than the number of people who put "Dreamgirls" as their fifth choice, then it could very easily get shut out. A logistical issue and none other.

And, in fact, if "Dreamgirls" had gotten the nomination, then it could have had a really good shot at the Oscar win: those are just straight ballots, so the small groups of strong supporters of the other films could have cancelled each other out.

I did a whole bunch of stories on how Oscar nominations can really boost box office and DVD performance. And now we're seeing the studios try to take advantage of that "Oscar bump":
Warner Brothers is re-releasing "The Departed," Paramount Vantage is expanding "Babel" to 1,100 theaters. Miramax expanded "The Queen" last week and is putting "Venus" -- whose lead, Peter O'Toole, has been nominated for Best Actor -- in additional markets this weekend. As I said on air: the smaller a movie's budget, and the smaller its performance so far, the more an Oscar nomination helps.

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  • Working from Los Angeles, Boorstin is CNBC's media and entertainment reporter and editor of CNBC.com's Media Money section.