Oscars to allow eligibility for streaming-only films during coronavirus pandemic

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences made clear the change was temporary as movie theaters remain closed due to public health concerns.

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By Doha Madani

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences changed its rules due to the coronavirus pandemic, allowing streaming-only films to be eligible for the 2021 Oscars.

Previously, all films must have had at least three showings a day in theaters within Los Angeles County for seven consecutive days to be eligible for the Oscars. The Academy’s Board of Governors announced the newly approved rules in a press release Tuesday, citing the closures of movie theaters around the world.

Academy President David Rubin and CEO Dawn Hudson insisted in a joint statement that the rule change was only temporary.

“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,” the statement said. “Nonetheless, the historically tragic COVID-19 pandemic necessitates this temporary exception to our awards eligibility rules.”

The Academy will later agree on a date to suspend the rule and studios will have to return to the in-theater showings in order to be eligible. The organization also plans to expand the eligible theaters outside of Los Angeles County to include other major metropolitan cities in the United States, such as New York City and Chicago.

With the rise of original content made by streaming services such as Amazon and Netflix, the debate about whether the Academy’s eligibility rules needed to be updated predate the pandemic.

Netflix, which took home multiple 2019 Oscars for “Roma,” defended streaming services in a tweet last year. The company tweeted that it loved cinema, but that it also loved making cinema more accessible to people and giving filmmakers more avenues to share art.

“These things are not mutually exclusive,” the tweet said.