Oscars 2021: Change in Rules

The “Academy Awards”, widely known as the “Oscars” awarded annually by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), is considered as the  most celebrated and prestigious award in the entertainment industry. The most recent ceremony, the 92nd Academy Awards recognizing the best films of 2019 was held on the 9th of February 2020,the earliest date in its history. This shift in the date claimed the disapproval of many including voters and publicists due to the shortage of time in watching and promoting the films. However the 93rd Academy awards which was as slated for February was rescheduled to 25th of April 2021 hoping that theatres would open again in spring. The eligibility of Films for the 2021 Oscars has also been extended from 31st of December 2020 to 28th of February 2021. Even if movie theaters remain closed, by holding the Oscars later in April, organizers are looking at the possibility the event can continue as an in-person ceremony given the state of the pandemic.

After the 91st Oscars which was held in February 2019 in which the film “Roma” that was broadcasted by Netflix, got nominated for ten awards including the Best Picture category, members of the Academy including Steven Spielberg desired to exclude films from Netflix and other streaming platforms. Spielberg had been anxious as to the fact that Netflix as a film production & distribution studio could largely spend and meet wider distribution than other nominees that meet the requirements. Over the past few years, Netflix has been lavishing money into original films. The streaming mogul has stirred up disputation in the film industry as it prefers release of ever growing list of films, online at the same time as they are released in the theatres, if they do so. This practice has enraged the theatre owners who insist on at least a two and half months window between a release in theatres and online.

Though Netflix and streaming media are not greatly approved by the theatre owners and the Academy Awards, however, owing to the disruptions brought forward by the coronavirus pandemic the Academy Awards was compelled to change its rule, allowing films released on a streaming platform without a theatrical run to be eligible for this year’s Oscars. 

Traditionally, the Oscars required films that seeked the prestigious awards, to be screened in a commercial Motion picture theatre in Los Angeles. The film should run for at least seven consecutive days of which periodic screenings should occur at least thrice daily. It was in April 2020, that the Academy declared for the 93rd Academy Awards only, “films that had a previously planned theatrical release but are initially made available on a commercial streaming or VOD service may qualify.” Also it made a statement stating that its commitment to movies being shown in Theatres was “unchanged and unwavering”.

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