All must have prizes: Oscars change the rules, for one year only

Published by Florence McCrae on April 29th 2020, 3:11pm

For the first time in the Oscars’ history, films will no longer be required to be shown in cinemas to be eligible for an award.

With theatres across the world closed in response to social distancing measures, the motion picture academy met yesterday to agree upon a new set of rules in response to the pandemic. The greatest change - films may now go straight to home release, while still being able to contend for an award.

Academy president, David Rubin and chief executive, Dawn Hudson released a joint statement in which they said: “The academy firmly believes there is no greater way to experience the magic of movies than to see them in a theatre.

“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 change is believed to apply exclusively to the 93rd Academy Awards, due to take place on 28 February 2021. However, there is a catch – only films which had a planned theatrical release are will be considered for an award, meaning that TV movies are exempt.

Independent films, who oft rely on financing following a successful Autumn release to secure a distributor and release date, will be directly impacted by this decision, as they will currently be without a release date.

Previous rules dictated that in order to be eligible for an Oscar, films would have to be shown at a theatre in Los Angeles County for at least one week. Netflix and other global streamers had reluctantly observed such stipulations in the past, however, have been freed from these rules, at least for a little while.

The more traditional Oscar voters will be reluctant to observe the temporary suspension of the more conventional rules, with streaming services already benefiting from the Covid-19 pandemic. The combination of the sound editing and sound mixing awards is likely to be welcomed, with many voters unable to distinguish between the two.

In a more environmentally conscientious move, the academy will no longer allow the distribution of CDs, screenplays or DVDS. This decision, once more, lends itself to a fully digital award body in the future.

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