Netflix just scored a major victory in its fight for Oscar consideration.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences voted to maintain its eligibility rules for the Oscars amid calls for a crackdown on streaming services from some prominent members. On Tuesday night, the board of governors decided to keep the current requirements, which state that a feature-length film must run for one-week in an L.A. County theater to qualify for best picture.
“The Academy’s Board of Governors voted to maintain Rule Two, Eligibility for the 92nd Oscars. The rule states that to be eligible for awards consideration, a film must have a minimum seven-day theatrical run in a Los Angeles County commercial theater, with at least three screenings per day for paid admission. Motion pictures released in nontheatrical media on or after the first day of their Los Angeles County theatrical qualifying run remain eligible,” the board said in a statement on its website.
“We support the theatrical experience as integral to the art of motion pictures, and this weighed heavily in our discussions,” Academy President John Bailey continued. “Our rules currently require theatrical exhibition, and also allow for a broad selection of films to be submitted for Oscars consideration. We plan to further study the profound changes occurring in our industry and continue discussions with our members about these issues.”
Steven Spielberg was among the high-profile critics of streaming services’ Oscar eligibility. After Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma, distributed and campaigned for by Netflix, won three Oscars, Spielberg upped his longstanding disapproval of Netflix films at the Oscars by addressing it directly with the Board of Governors at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Indiewire reported in March.
Spielberg has spoken openly about how films debuting on streaming platforms such as Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu should only be considered in the TV movie categories at the Emmy Awards, and not for Oscars. “Once you commit to a television format, you’re a TV movie. The good show deserves an Emmy, but not an Oscar,” he said last year.
Indiewire wrote that the veteran blockbuster filmmaker, who is a board member of the directing branch of the Academy, would propose rule changes that would prevent Netflix titles from qualifying for Oscar contention.
Other notable filmmakers, like Ava DuVernay — whose Oscar-nominated documentary 13th was distributed through Netflix in 2016 and whose upcoming four-part series on the Central Park Five, When They See Us, will premiere on Netflix on May 31 — responded to the news of Spielberg’s meeting by asking the Academy to include not just the Board of Governors but also “filmmakers in the room or read statements from directors like me who feel differently.”
The debate over the disruption that streaming platforms have caused in the traditional film distribution model has been ongoing ever since Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu entered the film space, but it’s been particularly resonant in a year where Netflix reportedly spent around $40-60 million on a successful Oscar campaign for Roma, which nabbed 10 Oscar nominations and three wins (Netflix purchased the distribution rights to the film after it had been made). Netflix changed its own distribution models to release Roma in limited theatrical runs but opted for the four-walling model, where it rented out movie theaters and kept the box office revenue.
The complete 92nd Academy Awards rules are available at oscars.org/rules.
The 92nd Oscars will be held on Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020, at the Dolby Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center in Hollywood, and will be televised live on the ABC Television Network at 6:30 p.m. ET/3:30 p.m. PT. The Oscars also will be televised live in more than 225 countries and territories worldwide.