The Oscars Just Changed A Major Rule & Here’s What It Means For Award Season

Photo: Steve Granitz/WireImage.
The entertainment industry has been forced to pivot due to the spread of COVID-19. Most productions have shut down, with no guarantee of when they will start up again. For films already shot and ready to go, there’s no way to release them theatrically, as movie theatres everywhere have temporarily shuttered. In light of this, the Oscars are changing which films are eligible for Academy Awards in 2021.
Typically, the standard rule for Academy Awards eligibility has been that a film must play in theatres for at least seven consecutive days in Los Angeles County in order to qualify for the awards. Now, per a press release from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, films that are available exclusively on streaming will now be eligible for the Oscars. This means that movies that were released on a streamer like Netflix, but never available in theatres, could potentially take home a Best Picture prize. 
It’s worth noting that only films that had a theatrical release planned and cancelled will be eligible under this new rule. Films made for streaming platforms or video-on-demand that never had a qualifying release planned are not. Still, this could mean we may see more movies come to streaming directly during the coronavirus pandemic, particularly films that may have held out until theatres reopened specifically to submit to the Academy Awards. 
This isn’t the only change the Academy Awards are making. In 2021, the Oscars will combine its two sound categories (Best Sound Design and Best Sound Mixing) under one category of Best Sound. In the Original Score category, the score must now comprise a minimum of 60% original music in order to be eligible. 
Thus far, the rules regarding theatrical releases will only apply to next year's award show. It's worth wondering, however, whether the impact of the coronavirus pandemic will make Hollywood reexamine some of its existing standards.

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