The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, which governs the awards ceremony, announced on Tuesday that it had changed its rules due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Cinemas have shut down due to the crisis, which has also put many of the biggest upcoming releases on ice.
As a result, films released on a streaming service without a theatrical run will be eligible for this year’s Oscars, the Academy announced on Tuesday.
The organisation also said it will condense the two sound categories, Sound Editing and Sound Mixing, into one.
DVD screeners for the 2022 Oscars will be forbidden, in an effort to limit the ceremony’s carbon footprint.
Oscars eligibility has been a major question since stay-at-home and social distancing orders led to both the cancellation of major film festivals and the closure of cinemas.
Previously, a film needed to have a minimum seven-day theatrical run in a Los Angeles County commercial theatre in order to be considered. Now, films that had a previously planned theatrical release but are made available on an on-demand service may qualify for Best Picture and other categories.
“We’re dealing with the unfolding reality of an unanticipated, unprecedented global health crisis and trying to be responsive to what’s going on in the world and at the same time support our filmmakers who are in a circumstance beyond their control,” Film Academy president David Rubin told The Associated Press on Tuesday.
Dawn Hudson, the CEO of the Academy, said that they have been in “constant conversation with all parts of our community from studios to filmmakers to theatre owners” to make decisions that support all.
Earlier this month, the Film Academy donated $6m to help motion picture employees and their families during this crisis.
“Our primary message is take care of yourselves,” Hudson added. “We’ll be flexible on our rules this year because we understand how unprecedented and devastating this is.”
The Academy’s board noted, however, that when theatres reopen, the rules exemption will no longer apply.
It remains unclear when cinemas can hope to reopen across the US, with each state relaxing its lockdown measures on a different timeline.
California Governor Gavin Newsom has said that the state’s cinemas would reopen in a matter of months, not weeks.
In the event that cinemas reopen nationwide, the Academy will expand the qualifying theatres beyond Los Angeles County to include venues in New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, Miami and Atlanta.
“The theatrical experience is the DNA of the Academy and that communal experience of the movie theatre is something we feel is intrinsic to movies,” said Hudson.
Other changes included combining the Sound Mixing and Sound Editing categories into Best Achievement in Sound.
“This is something long in the making and generated by the experts in the sound field. They wanted to propose this change after reviewing a long history of overlap,” Rubin said. “They wanted it to be reflective of how the sound industry works together today.”
Additionally, all Film Academy members are now able to vote in the first round for International Feature Film, the category formerly known as Best Foreign Language Film.
The board also said for a film score to be eligible in the Original Score Category, it must have 60% original music. For sequels and franchise films, there must be a minimum of 80% new music.
The Associated Press contributed to this report