The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences convened its Board of Governors on Tuesday morning and made several temporary changes to the Oscars ceremony, especially with regards to eligibility.
Movies that debut on VOD and streaming services will now be eligible for the Academy Awards so long as they were scheduled for theatrical release at one point. That means that Universal’s Trolls World Tour, which skipped theaters in favor of a VOD release, will be eligible for the Best Animated Feature award, but HBO’s Hugh Jackman drama Bad Education, which is one of the best films of the year, would not be eligible because it was never intended to play in theaters. All of those VOD/streaming titles will have to be made available to Academy voters via the organization’s members-only streaming service, Academy Screening Room, within 60 days of their non-theatrical debut. Once theaters do reopen, all of those films will be required to book a seven-day run in theaters in order to be eligible. There will be a backlog of titles once theaters reopen, so rather than require a week-long booking in Los Angeles, the Academy is adding five more qualifying cities — New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Miami and Atlanta.
Elsewhere, the board voted to combine the two sound categories, Sound Editing and Sound Mixing, and the Academy will now give out a single award for Best Sound that will recognize both editors and mixers. That lowers the number of televised categories from 24 to 23. Frankly, it’s a move that makes a ton of sense, as most people, including many voters, don’t even know the difference between the two categories, and more often than not, the same movie wins both awards. That didn’t happen this past year, as 1917 and Ford v Ferrari split the sound categories, but the Sound Branch itself reportedly requested this consolidation.
Meanwhile, all eligible voters will be able to weigh in on the preliminary nomination round for Best International Film. Prior to Tuesday’s rule change, members could only vote for the winner of the five nominees, without determining which international films are nominated. There used to be a volunteer committee of members who had to prove that they’d seen all the eligible international titles. Speaking of which, the pandemic has forced the closure of theaters around the world, so the Academy is currently having discussions with local film commissions overseas regarding the submission process and eligibility rules. These films will also be expected to be available in the Academy Screening Room.
Finally, this will be the final year that physical DVD screeners are allowed, as the Academy has decided to embrace digital screeners on its own platform, even though older voters often struggle to adapt to new technologies. This falls in line with the Television Academy making the same decision regarding the upcoming (and future) Emmy Awards.
The 93rd Academy Awards remains scheduled to air on ABC on Sunday, February 27, 2021 — exactly ten months from today. It’s going to be a very interesting awards season, that’s for sure! It’s a bummer that’s there’s still no award to honor stunt performers, but perhaps that idea has been tabled until next year, given everything the Academy had to address this year.