Academy changes Oscars eligibility for streaming titles amid coronavirus pandemic
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has implemented emergency changes to its strict Oscars eligibility requirements to accommodate Hollywood releases with theatrical rollouts that have been impacted by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
In a statement issued Tuesday, AMPAS confirmed its Board of Governors has approved new rules and campaign regulations for the 93rd Oscars. As the pandemic forced the closure of all Los Angeles County movie theaters as of Monday, March 16, the Academy has temporarily suspended its rule that a film must complete an Oscar-qualifying theatrical run of at least seven consecutive days (three showings daily). Films that had previously planned a theatrical release but were forced to premiere on streaming services or VOD as a result of COVID-19-related theatrical closures may still qualify for Best Picture under the following provisions: "The film must be made available on the secure Academy Screening Room member-only streaming site within 60 days of the film’s streaming or VOD release" in addition to meeting all other existing eligibility requirements.
The Academy further announced that, when theaters reopen in accordance with government measures, the aforementioned rule exemptions will no longer apply, though the Academy will then expand the number of qualifying theaters beyond Los Angeles County to other venues in cities like New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Miami, and Atlanta.
"The Academy firmly believes there is no greater way to experience the magic of movies than to see them in a theater. Our commitment to that is unchanged and unwavering," said Academy President David Rubin and CEO Dawn Hudson in a press release. "Nonetheless, the historically tragic COVID-19 pandemic necessitates this temporary exception to our awards eligibility rules. The Academy supports our members and colleagues during this time of uncertainty. We recognize the importance of their work being seen and also celebrated, especially now, when audiences appreciate movies more than ever."
Other changes for the upcoming Oscar season include the merging of Best Sound Mixing and Best Sound Editing into one award for Best Achievement in Sound, which emphasizes the "team effort," while eligibility requirements for the Best Music (Original Score) category now stipulate that a competing score must be comprised of 60 percent original music, though a score for a sequel or franchise film must contain 80 percent new music to be nominated.
All eligible Academy members will now be invited to participate in the preliminary round of voting for Best International Feature, and submissions will be made available through the Academy Screening Room streaming platform. All voting members of the preliminary voting committee must also meet a viewing requirement in order to vote.
Other changes include the elimination of a rule prohibiting quotes or comments by Academy members (aside from governors and events committee members) not directly associated with the film in any form of advertising, the mandate that screeners will be required to include closed captioning, and the announcement that the upcoming season will be the final year DVD screeners will be allowed.
The Academy's alterations in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak come weeks after the Hollywood Foreign Press Association — which each year hands out its Golden Globe statuettes in the run-up to the Oscars — announced it had amended its pre-established eligibility rules for movies vying for consideration in the awards season ahead.
Per HFPA alterations, in lieu of holding the typically required FYC screenings for voting members in Los Angeles, distributors of contending films must provide them with a screening link or a DVD copy of the project between March 15 and April 30, 2020. According to more new stipulations, movies that had a pre-planned qualifying theatrical release date during the same period "may instead be released first on a television format (e.g. subscription streaming service, subscription cable channel, broadcast television, etc.)" and will still be eligible to compete at the Golden Globes.
To date, theatrical closures tied to the COVID-19 outbreak have forced studios to drop new releases like The Invisible Man, Onward, The Hunt, Emma, and more on digital services for a premium price shortly after their debut on movie screens.
The 93rd Oscars are currently scheduled to be handed out at a ceremony on Feb. 28, 2021.