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Streaming-only films to be eligible for 2021 Oscars

The 2021 Oscars will allow films that premiered in 2020 only on streaming platforms to be eligible for nominations due to the closure of movie theaters. File photo by John Angelillo/UPI
The 2021 Oscars will allow films that premiered in 2020 only on streaming platforms to be eligible for nominations due to the closure of movie theaters. File photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

April 28 (UPI) -- Films released only on streaming services in 2020 will be eligible to be nominated for the 93rd Oscars, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced Tuesday.

The new rule is in effect only for films competing in the 2021 Oscar ceremony.

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Previous rules required films to premiere in theaters for at least seven days and at least three showtimes per day in order to be eligible for the Oscars. Netflix films such as Roma and The Irishman, as well as other independent films, only qualified in previous award seasons because they played in theaters before streaming.

But the closure of movie theaters due to the coronavirus pandemic and poses a new scenario for the Academy. The major studio film Trolls World Tour premiered on video on demand, and Universal has set Judd Apatow's The King of Staten Island for a June 12 streaming release.

The new rules stipulate that if a theatrical release had been planned, but the film premiered on streaming instead due to COVID-19, the film could still qualify for nominations. The film also must be made available to Academy voters via their private streaming site within 60 days of release, and should meet all other eligibility requirements.

Furthermore, previous requirements mandated all eligible movies to have Los Angeles theatrical playdates. The Academy expanded eligible cities to include New York City, Chicago, the San Francisco Bay Area, Miami and Atlanta once theaters reopen.

Typically, studios schedule their award-hopeful movies for fall releases. It's possible studios will start releasing movies to theaters by the fall, but only some states, such as Georgia and Texas, have begun reopening theaters under new guidelines.

The earliest movie scheduled for release is Tenet on July 17.

The Academy said that once theaters reopen, they will determine a date by which this rule would no longer apply.

Film festivals such as South by Southwest, Tribeca and Cannes were also canceled due to COVID-19. SXSW is planning to host a streaming film festival on Amazon. In previous years, premiering online would disqualify those films from the Oscars. For 2020, the Academy is exempting films that air through a festival's paywall or password-protected platform, provided they have proof the film was part of the festival.

In other news, the Academy combined the Sound Mixing and Sound Editing categories into a single category. New rules for the Original Score category require a score comprise 60 percent original music and 80 percent if the film is a sequel or franchise installment.

The International Feature Film category has opened up nomination voting to all eligible Academy members for the first round of voting. Screeners of eligible films will be provided to eligible members through the Academy's private streaming site.

The Academy also lifted a ban on members unaffiliated with a film from providing quotes for a film's marketing. However, Academy governors, and Awards and Events Committee members still may not provide quotes.

Screeners will now be required to include closed captioning. This will also be the final year the Academy will send out DVD screeners to members, as the Academy wishes to move all screeners online for environmental sustainability.

The Oscars ceremony is scheduled to air Feb. 21 on ABC.

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