The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the organization responsible for what many recognize as the Oscars, changed its rules due to the coronavirus pandemic, therefore allowing streaming-only films to be eligible for the 2021 Oscars.
Traditionally, all films must have had at least three showings a day in theaters within Los Angeles County for seven consecutive days to be eligible for the Oscars. The Academy’s Board of Governors announced the newly approved rules in a press release, citing the closures of movie theaters around the world.
Under the new rule, films that are released digitally without a theater release are eligible for consideration. However, only films that initially had a planned theatrical release will be eligible. The movie must also be available on the Academy Screening Room members-only streaming site within 60 days of the film’s streaming or video-on-demand release. Once theaters reopen, the original theater requirement rule will apply, but the qualifying theaters will expand beyond Los Angeles, to include ones in New York, Chicago, Miami, Atlanta and the Bay area.
Academy President David Rubin and CEO Dawn Hudson emphasized in a joint statement that the rule change was only temporary.
“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,” the statement said. “Nonetheless, the historically tragic COVID-19 pandemic necessitates this temporary exception to our awards eligibility rules.”
Yet, the growing demand for original content made by streaming services such as Amazon, Netflix, and Hulu make room for the debate about why the Academy’s eligibility rules needed to be updated to fit our contemporary viewing preferences. For many, the COVID-19 pandemic has simply exemplified why such rules should be modified for good.
The Academy also announced changes for the sound mixing and sound editing categories. Now, the two will be combined into one best sound category, which brings the number of Oscars presented during the Academy Awards telecast down from 24 to 23. Meanwhile, the original score category now has a requirement that at least 60 percent of the film’s score must be original.