The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the group that hands out the annual Oscar awards, touched off an industry-wide controversy Wednesday when it announced that it is doubling the number of nominees for Best Picture to 10. Although the announcement came as a surprise to many in Hollywood, Academy President Sid Ganis told the Wall Street Journal, "This wasn't a knee-jerk decision. ... We just felt we need to expand the possibilities to allow more genres." He noted that in the 1930s and '40s, the Academy routinely nominated 10 or even 12 movies a year for Best Picture. In 1939 the 10 nominees included the classics Dark Victory, Goodbye, Mr. Chips, Love Affair, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Ninotchka, Of Mice and Men, Stagecoach, The Wizard of Oz, Wuthering Heights, and -- the winner -- Gone With The Wind. But one studio executive told the Hollywood Reporter "This likely means more filmmakers will want to see their movies open late in the year so they can still be in release during the crucial period between nominations [February 2] and the actual telecast [March 7]. It's simply going to clog up the distribution pipeline or mean we have to consider re-releasing one title or another. Don't even mention what it might do to DVD campaigns." Still, the move is likely to redound to the benefit of ABC, the network that broadcasts the awards ceremony. The Los Angeles Times said that it was spurred by what it called "the Marion Cotillard effect," referring to the all-but-unknown French actress who won this year's Best Actress award for her performance in the art-house release, La Vie en Rose. The Academy's action appears to ensure that at least a few hit films would be represented among its best-picture nominees. "Movies that have been nominated in recent years have been critically acclaimed but many were too obscure for the mainstream moviegoer," Shari Anne Brill, director of audience analysis for the ad-buying firm Carat, told the Times. And Geri Wang, ABC senior vice president for primetime sales, told the newspaper, "It's going to offer a broader palette of films being considered, and that should increase the interest in the show. Viewers, and the industry, will want to watch and root for their favorite films."