Streaming films are temporarily eligible for Oscars, no theatrical run required

Widespread theatrical closures have forced the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to loosen the rules around which films qualify for Oscars.

This might not seem like much of a breakthrough in a year when Netflix got the most Oscar nominations of any studio, and when the streamer’s original films ultimately walked away with two Oscars.

However, in order to compete in Best Picture and other categories, films must be screened commercially for at least seven days in a Los Angeles theater, even if they’re streaming at the same time. And there was¬†reported debate last year around raising the theatrical requirements in ways that would have made it harder for streaming films to compete.

Today, however, the Academy announced that if a movie was originally scheduled for a theatrical run and instead launches on streaming or video on demand, it’s still eligible. At the same time, the announcement emphasizes that this is a temporary change that will no longer apply “when theaters reopen in accordance with federal, state and local specified guidelines and criteria.”

The pandemic has also prompted the Academy to reconsider the LA-centric nature of its requirements. When theaters reopen, the list of qualifying theaters will expand to include venues in New York City, the San Francisco Bay Area, Chicago, Miami and Atlanta.

This announcement comes as the Hollywood studios have delayed several blockbusters in response to the coronavirus closures, while bringing some films (like Disney’s “Onward” and NBCUniversal’s “The Invisible Man”) online more quickly, and sending others (like “Artemis Fowl” and “The Lovebirds”) straight to streaming.

In a statement, Academy President David Rubin and CEO Dawn Hudson said:

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.