The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has completely altered the landscape of Hollywood, closing movie theaters and halting productions around the globe. There hasn't been a new film released in theaters since March, and they aren't any major releases scheduled until July, though there could be changes that push those movies back as well. Everything is up in the air right now, forcing films online for streaming and on-demand earlier than expected, sometimes without a theatrical window at all. Usually, this would mean that these movies would be disqualified for the end of the year Academy Awards, but a temporary rule change was announced this week and it will allow these titles to compete.
In order for a film to become eligible for Oscars contention, it needs to have a theatrical release. The film has to play in at least one Los Angeles County theater for seven days, with at least three showings per day, before it makes a streaming debut. This specific rule is what allowed many Netflix films to contend for, and win, Academy Awards over the last two years. Movies like The Irishman and Roma played in select theaters before arriving on the streaming service.
That isn't possible this year because of the theater closures, so the rules have been temporarily altered. In order to compete for competition at the upcoming Academy Awards, a film simply had to have a "previously planned theatrical release." This means films like Trolls World Tour and Tigertail can now compete for awards, despite being released directly online.
The Golden Globes have a similar rule change in place this year. The major caveat is that digital screeners for every film that wants to contend must be made available to voters of both groups.
“The Academy firmly believes there is no greater way to experience the magic of movies than to see them in a theater," said Academy President David Rubin and CEO Dawn Hudson. "Our commitment to that is unchanged and unwavering. Nonetheless, the historically tragic COVID-19 pandemic necessitates this temporary exception to our awards eligibility rules. The Academy supports our members and colleagues during this time of uncertainty. We recognize the importance of their work being seen and also celebrated, especially now, when audiences appreciate movies more than ever."
This is shaping up to be a very strange awards season, and it could potentially shift how the Oscars, Golden Globes, and other awards are determined in the future.