It looks like movies produced by Netflix and other streaming services will be able to challenge for next year’s Academy Awards without any changes to eligibility.
After the Netflix genuine film “Roma” was nominated for Best image at this year’s ceremony and ultimately took home the awards for Best Director, Best Foreign Language film and Best Cinematography, the Academy’s Board of Directors was mulling viable rule changes.
The crux of the debate seems to be Netflix’s theatrical strategy. The company insisted for years that it was willing to release its movies in theaters, but it would not hold those titles back from the streaming service, which meant that most gigantic chains were unwilling to screen them. Netflix finally eased up on this practice last year, with “Roma” (and a handful of other films) opening in theaters before they launched on Netflix, but with a much shorter theatrical window than is traditional.
Director Steven Spielberg was reportedly an advocate for changing the rules in a path that would have made it harder for Netflix movies to challenge — perhaps by requiring that films play exclusively in theaters for four weeks.
Earlier this month, the Department of Justice weighed in, sending a letter to the Academy stating that if it makes eligibility changes that “eliminate tournament without procompetitive justification, such conduct may elevate antitrust concerns.”
Now the Academy has put out a press release summarizing rules changes voted on by its Board of Governors (like renaming the Foreign Language film medal to intercontinental Feature film).
The release notes that the board voted not to change Rule Two, Eligibility, which describes the theatrical run needed to be eligible for an oscar. It says that “a film must have a minimum seven-day theatrical run in a los Angeles County commercial theater, with at least three screenings per day for paid admission” in order to be eligible — but the film can also be released on “nontheatrical media” at the same moment.
“We aid the theatrical experience as integral to the art of motion pictures, and this weighed heavily in our discussions,” said Academy President John Bailey in a statement. “Our rules currently demand theatrical exhibition, and also allow for a broad selection of films to be submitted for Oscars consideration. We plan to further study the profound changes occurring in our industry and continue discussions with our members about these issues.”