Academy Awards Announce Rule Change After COVID-19 - Comic Years
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Academy Awards Announce Rule Change After COVID-19

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BY February 22, 2021

There has never been a worse year for theatrical releases. However, there’s also never been a better time for streaming releases. After the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the world, the entire future of movie theaters has been altered. Movie release dates are being shuffled,  indefinitely delayed, or moved to streaming services. While this is frustrating, it also means that awards shows are going to have to change. The Academy Awards has finally come out with their plan on how rules will change due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

How The Academy Awards Will Look After COVID-19

Previous Oscar rules have stated that any film must have a seven-day run at a commercial theater in Los Angeles in order to be eligible. If this rule was to be kept in place, only films prior to the pandemic would be eligible (or any that come out near the end of the year, which is still full of uncertainty). Obviously, the Academy doesn’t want Birds of Prey to win Best Picture, even though it technically was number 1 in its opening weekend at the box office. Following the earlier announcements regarding eligibility changes from both the Golden Globes and the Emmys, the Academy Awards has made a change to prevent something like this happening.

Any film released in 2020 will now be eligible for consideration as long as it has a digital release. However, the film needed to at least have a theatrical release planned. So, films that had their release directly impacted by COVID-19 are eligible, but not films that were always planning for only releasing digitally. Additionally, any films that want to be considered will need to be available on the streaming site for Academy members within 60 days of their digital release.

Academy Awards COVID-19 What will the next Best Picture winner look like? Image via CJ Entertainment & Neon.

How This Impacts The Academy’s Previous Distaste For Streaming

Movies are designed to be experienced in a theater. The sound and picture quality is better, and the atmosphere is all about the magic of movies. Despite the long history of theater-going, streaming services have completely changed the game. Big players like Netflix are having major releases and getting plenty of nominations across the board. Now, there is room for everybody. The way that it’s released doesn’t necessarily have an impact on the quality of the film. Still, some people really hate the idea of streaming-only films being up for such prestigious awards.

Well-known film industry leaders like James Cameron and Christopher Nolan have been particularly outspoken about streaming services at awards ceremonies. In their announcement regarding the new rule change, the president of the Academy, David Rubin, gave some insight. “There’s no greater way to experience the magic of movies than to see them in a theater,” Rubin explained. The Academy Awards change appears to be reluctant, and would never have happened without the COVID-19 pandemic.

Will Things Ever Change?

Films released on streaming services get around the previous rules by having limited releases. Even having a single theater play their film for a week allows them to be eligible. However, the recent change announcement explained that qualifying theaters will be expanded, allowing for qualifying venues in other major cities like Chicago and New York.

As an avid movie-goer, I don’t feel personally offended by the idea of a rule change. I’ll still go see the films that I’d like to see in the theater and watch others on Netflix. Though, the idea that movie theaters may someday become unnecessary is a thought that I don’t even want to consider. James Cameron and friends have a point. The movie-watching experience is just better when you’re at the theater. But the game is changing, and being able to watch things at home is simply more convenient. Plus, there’s no way that I’d ever watch a three and a half hour movie (*cough* The Irishman *cough*) in theaters unless it was really special.

Academy Awards COVID-19 A streaming service film that made a splash at the Academy Awards. Image via Netflix.

Other Rules Are Changing At The Academy Awards

Do you know the difference between sound mixing and sound editing? Despite reading the difference numerous times, I still couldn’t give you a proper answer. While the teams behind each sound element are hard-working and deserve individual recognition, the Academy has finally decided to just merge the two categories. Other sound-related changes include a new rule that says that original scores only need to have a minimum of 60% original music (and 80% for sequels).

A recent complaint about the Academy Awards has surrounded their DVD screeners. Previously, all members would be mailed a screener for films that they are allowed to vote for. This is pretty wasteful, as many can just stream it online. Fortunately, the Academy has made a sustainable change of only using their online streaming platform for voter-viewing.

Regardless of the rule change, it’s certain that next year’s Academy Awards will be different after COVID-19’s impact. Fewer films will release. Studios will fight for the best premiere dates. So, when the Oscars air on February 28th, 2021, it’ll be a historic one to watch.

How do you feel about the recent Academy Awards changes due to COVID-19? Are there any films that you’re particularly sad about not being able to watch? Let us know in the comments!

Featured image via Warner Bros.

Pop Culture

Meghan Hale is the kind of movie lover that has a "must watch" that is a mile long... and growing. When she isn't talking about the latest film and television news she is writing one of her many in-process novels, screaming film trivia at anybody who will listen, and working as a mental health care professional. Follow her on Twitter @meghanrhale for some fun theories and live reactions to all things entertainment.


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