Academy Alters Oscars Rules: Streaming Films Eligible, Sound Categories Combined, And More

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' board of governors met this morning and voted to make some important changes to eligibility requirements for the 2021 Oscars ceremony. The biggest of these is that the board has nixed the requirement that films need to play in a Los Angeles theater for at least one week for a qualifying run – now, films that were released digitally without playing in theaters at all (like Trolls World Tour) are eligible for Oscars. Read more about the new changes below.

Movies Released on Streaming Will Be Eligible

To be clear, not every single streaming movie is now suddenly eligible for Oscar consideration. The new rules stipulate that films which were originally "scheduled for theatrical release, that meet the other eligibility requirements, and that are made available for Academy members to view on the organization's members-only streaming service, Academy Screening Room, within 60 days of being made available on a publicly-available streamer or VOD service, will be in the running," according to THR.

When theaters are allowed to reopen – nationwide, or maybe just in Los Angeles? The scale is unclear – the Academy will revert back to its original eligibility requirements, but will expand the cities where a film can have its qualifying theatrical run to include Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Miami, and Atlanta. Movies that have already had their streaming debuts will not be required to also then have a theatrical release.

"The Academy firmly believes there is no greater way to experience the magic of movies than to see them in a theater," Academy president David Rubin and CEO Dawn Hudson said in a statement to Variety. "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."

The Academy Has Officially Removed a Category

After some discussion in late 2019, the Academy has also now officially voted to consolidate the sound categories into a single category. Say goodbye to Sound Mixing and Sound Editing and say hello to Best Sound. This decision, which was first put forth by the sound branch, makes a lot of sense because many Oscar voters didn't understand the distinction between editing and mixing in the first place, and now it's all simplified. (Plus, one fewer award means a shorter running time for the ceremony itself, something that will make a whole different subset of people happy.)

Additional Changes

For the first time ever, all Academy members will be invited to participate in the preliminary round of voting for international feature film. Previously, only voters who attended screenings at the organization's Beverly Hills headquarters were able to take place in that early round of voting. Members will have to meet a minimum viewing requirement to be allowed to vote, but it's unclear exactly what that threshold will be at this time.

Previously, the Best Original Score category required the music to be "predominantly" original, but now a more specific line in the sand has been drawn. A score must now include a minimum of 60% original music to qualify, and that percentage goes up to 80% for sequels and franchise films.

Finally, DVD screeners will be banned after this year. Instead, distributors are charged $12,500 per movie to screen films on the Academy's digital platform accessible to voters.

Next year's Oscars telecast (the 93rd annual Academy Awards) is currently slated to air on ABC on February 28, 2021.