The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has briefly changed its rules for films to be considered for Oscars. With theaters being closed indefinitely due to the coronavirus, the Academy will now allow movies on streaming services to be considered for awards. Previously, the institution didn’t consider films unless they played in a Los Angeles commercial theater for at least seven consecutive days. And the movie would still require at least three daily screenings. But there are a couple of catches.
Only movies that had planned theatrical releases will be eligible under this new rule. So, a Netflix original with no planned theatrical run still can’t receive Oscar nominations. Also, the new rule will only be in effect for the 93rd Academy Awards. Once theaters reopen, this rule will no longer apply. A film must be available on the Academy’s member-only streaming site within 60 days of the streaming or VOD release. Academy President David Rubin and CEO Dawn Hudson issued the following statement:
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. 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.”
In addition to some other small regulatory tweaks, the Academy has combined two former categories. Sound Mixing and Sound Editing will now be merged under Achievement in Sound.
The Oscars have been dropping in viewership numbers for years now. Although the 2020 program earlier this year made history, it hit a record low in views. The Academy’s ability to adapt to the current environment is welcome. But only time will tell if it will impact how many viewers tune in.