Oscars Will Consider Films That Didn’t Play in Theaters as Part of New Academy Rules

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has tweaked its Oscar eligibility rules in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

During a meeting on Tuesday, the board of governors approved a temporary hold on the requirement that a film needs a seven-day theatrical run in a commercial theater in Los Angeles County to qualify for the Oscars.

Instead, films will be allowed to be released digitally without playing in theaters. However, that doesn’t mean any movie premiering on a streaming service is eligible for Oscar gold. To be considered, the streamed film must have already had a planned theatrical release. The film must also be made available on the Academy Screening Room member-only streaming site within 60 days of the film’s streaming or VOD release.

“The Academy firmly believes there is no greater way to experience the magic of movies than to see them in a theater,” Academy president David Rubin and CEO Dawn Hudson said in a statement. “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.”

Once movie theaters are allowed to re-open, the seven-day window will once again be required for eligibility. Pics that have already streamed will not have to then be released in theaters. When theaters re-open, the Academy will also expand the number of qualifying theaters beyond Los Angeles County to include venues in New York City, the Bay Area, Chicago, Miami and Atlanta.

The Academy also announced that it will eliminate an Oscar category. The sound mixing and sound editing categories will be combined into one award, reducing the total number of categories presented on the show to 23. This change was initiated by the sound branch.

Also, for the first time, all Academy members will be invited to participate in the preliminary round of voting for international feature film. Members will have to meet a minimum viewing requirement to be allowed to vote.

In the original score category, the board voted that a score must comprise a minimum of 60% original music. Additionally, for sequels and franchise films, a score must have a minimum of 80% new music.

In keeping with the Academy’s ongoing efforts to be more sustainable, the board also voted to eliminate DVD screeners. Like the TV academy edict, DVD mailers will be banned after this year. In October, the Academy expanded its Streaming Room platform to include best picture hopefuls following its addition of documentaries, animated films and shorts. Distributors are charged $12,500 per movie to screen on the platform.

The 93rd Oscars telecast will air Feb. 28, 2021 on ABC.

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association is also making changes to its film eligibility rules for the 2021 Golden Globes, including allowing studios to provide screening links for voting members instead of having films played at third-party facilities.

Instead of only considering movies released in theaters, or made available on pay-per-view cable or pay-per-view digital delivery (not subscription cable or digital delivery) in the greater Los Angeles area for a minimum seven days before Dec. 31, the HFPA will now consider titles that had a theatrical release planned to begin in Los Angeles starting March 15, with no cut-off date.

SAG Awards eligibility rules are expected to be announced in July