As announced today in a press release, The Academy Of Motion Pictures Arts And Science (a.k.a. The Academy, a.k.a. the people who run the Oscars) has announced that for this year—and only this year—streamings movies will be eligible for Oscars, following a similar decision by the HFPA and the Golden Globes. Previously, a movie had to have a theatrical run in Los Angeles County for at least seven days in order to be eligible for the Academy Awards, but now that rule has been temporarily changed to permit streaming movies that would’ve had a regular theatrical release if not for this damned coronavirus pandemic. Movies will still have to meet all other eligibility requirements and they must be available on The Academy’s secret member-only streaming site, but this at least means that Bad Boys For Life isn’t the default frontrunner for Best Picture anymore. (It might still be the frontrunner, but now it would at least be on its own merits.)
There are, naturally, some finer details here (this is The Academy we’re talking about). On a yet-to-be-specified date after federal and state governments allow for theaters to reopen, this rule exemption “will no longer apply,” meaning movies will still have to open in theaters once theaters themselves reopen. But, to make that a little easier on everyone, the Academy is expanding the range of which theaters count for eligibility to include other major cities like New York and Chicago. Canceled film festivals are also being taken into account, with The Academy saying that movies that would’ve premiered at film festivals but moved online instead will still be eligible for future Academy Awards ceremonies as long as they’re hosted behind a “transactional pay wall or password-protected entry” and can prove that they were going to be included in a festival.
The eligibility rules aren’t the only things getting changed at The Academy today, though. In a somewhat surprising move toward streamlining the awards, the indistinguishable Sound Mixing and Sound Editing categories will be combined into a single award for Best Achievement In Sound that will be more about the “team effort.” It’s not quite as huge as it would be if The Grammys were to, say, clarify the difference between Record Of The Year and Song Of The Year, but it at least seems like a positive shift. We’ll see all of these changes in action when the Oscars are given out on February 28, 2021.