It looks like movies produced by Netflix and other streaming services will be able to compete for next year’s Academy Awards without any changes to eligibility.
After the Netflix Original film “Roma” was nominated for Best Picture 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 possible 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 large 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 way that would have made it harder for Netflix movies to compete — 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 competition without procompetitive justification, such conduct may raise 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 award to International 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 time.
“We support 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 require 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.”