Covid-19 outbreak forces Oscars to include 'streaming only' movies for 2021 Academy Awards, but with conditions

Covid-19 outbreak forces Oscars to include 'streaming only' movies for 2021 Academy Awards, but with conditions

Eligibility rules for movies vying for the Oscars have been tweaked for the Academy Awards 2021, to include movies that have only played on streaming platforms. Earlier rules stated that a movie released primarily on OTT must have first played in the theatres at least for a week, to be considered eligible for the Oscars. 

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences made the announcement regarding the new rules in a statement released on Tuesday. The rules have been tweaked in the wake of the debilitating Covid-19 outbreak, and the unprecedented lockdown in more than half of the world that has caused everything to be closed down for months on end, including theatres. 

The closing down of theatres and the long lineup of ready-for-release movies that are unreleased due to the shutdown, has prompted production companies to release some movies only on streaming platforms such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney Plus. 

However, the tweaking of rules comes with conditions. To be considered for the Oscars, the streamed film must have already had a planned theatrical release. The film must also be made available on the Academy Screening Room member-only streaming site within 60 days of the film’s streaming or VOD release. Also, the new rules will be rolled back as soon as theatres open. That means, once theatres are open full-fledged, movies will again have to adhere to the theatre-first rules to be eligible for the Oscars. However, movies that have already been released on streaming in the interim will be in for Oscars consideration, and need not re-release in theatres for eligibility. 

The statement released by the Academy quotes President David Rubin and CEO Dawn Hudson, “The Academy firmly believes there is no greater way to experience the magic of movies than to see them in a theatre. 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 its 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.”

Owing to the Coronavirus outbreak, several big-ticket movies have released on digital or are in the process of releasing. Pixar’s Onward, Paramount's Lovebirds and Warner Brother’s Birds of Prey have all premiered early on streaming platforms. 

Another unconnected change in the Academy rules is the combining of two categories into one - the sound mixing and sound editing categories will be combined into one award, thereby reducing the total number of Award categories to 23. 

Additionally, all Academy members will be able to vote in the preliminary rounds of voting for the Award for Best International Film. Members will have to meet a minimum viewing requirement to be allowed to vote.

Lastly, for the music of a film to qualify for Best Original Score, it must feature 60% original music, which goes up to 80% new music for sequels and franchise films. 

The 93rd Academy Awards will be held in Los Angeles on 28 February 2021. 


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