Oscars Will Consider Streaming Films for First Time Ever Because of Coronavirus

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has made changes to its Oscar eligibility rules amid the coronavirus pandemic. On Tuesday, the 54-person board of governors voted to ease Oscar-eligibility requirements, with one major change including a temporary hold on the requirement that a film must have a seven-day theatrical run in a commercial theater in Los Angeles County to qualify. Instead, films will be eligible for an Oscar nomination if they are streamed digitally.

"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," Academy President David Rubin and CEO Dawn Hudson said in a joint statement. "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."

In a press release, the board announced that the change is in effect "until further notice, and for the 93rd Awards year only." There are, however, a number of provision, with the release noting that films have had a previously planned theatrical release and must be made available on the secure Academy Screening Room member-only streaming site within 60 days of the film's streaming or VOD release and films must meet all other eligibility requirements.

Once movie theaters reopen and "on a date yet to be determined," the exemptions will no longer apply, and the seven-day window will once again be required for eligibility. To make the process easier, the Academy will expand the number of qualifying theaters to include venues in New York City, the Bay Area, Chicago, Miami and Atlanta. Films that were already released via streaming or VOD will not be required to have a theatrical run.

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The change comes as several films scheduled for release in 2020 were forced to postpone their theatrical releases until 2021 due to the global pandemic. Mission: Impossible 7, Fast & Furious 9, and James Bond sequel No Time to Die have all pushed their releases. Meanwhile, other studios have chosen to debut movies on their scheduled release date but by opting for digital release, including Paramount Pictures' Lovebirds and Universal Studios' Trolls World Tour.

Set to air on Feb. 28, 2021 on ABC, the 93rd Oscars will see several other changes. On Tuesday, it was also announced that two Sound categories – Sound Mixing and Sound Editing – have been combined into a single category.