Films that debuted on streaming services instead of in movie theaters due to the coronavirus pandemic will be eligible for the Oscars for this year only.
The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences announced last week that the change for the 93rd Academy Awards represents the impact of the pandemic on the film industry.
“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. “Nonetheless, the historic 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.”
Traditionally for films to be eligible for an Oscar they have to have a theatrical run in Los Angeles County of at least seven consecutive days, where screenings must occur at least three times a day.
Now, films that had a previously planned theatrical release but instead went straight to an on-demand service, such as Universal’s “Trolls World Tour,” may qualify for best picture and other categories.
This also includes films slated to be shown at film festivals that were canceled.
Some movie studios didn’t take the streaming services route, opting instead to postpone the release of new films such as “Mulan” and “Fast and Furious 9.”
When movie theaters open again the Academy says it will expand its qualifying theaters beyond Los Angeles County to include California’s Bay Area, New York City, Chicago, Miami and Atlanta.
“We’ll be flexible on our rules this year because we understand how unprecedented and devastating this is,” Hudson said.
The Academy is making other changes as well. They will condense the sound editing and sound mixing categories into one and prohibit DVD screeners for 2022′s 94th Oscars in an effort to become more carbon-neutral.
“Our primary message is take care of yourselves,” Hudson said. “We recognize the importance of their work being seen and also celebrated, especially now, when audiences appreciate movies more than ever.”
The 93rd Oscars is scheduled to air Sunday, Feb. 28 on ABC.