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Oscars: Academy mulling major movie change that will make Netflix unhappy, theaters rejoice

ClutchPoints logo: MainLogo ClutchPoints 3/31/2023 Andrew Korpan
3/31/23 © Andrew Korpan 3/31/23

Just one year ago at the 94th Academy Awards, CODA became the first film in history to take home the Best Picture award for a streaming service. The film premiered at Sundance in 2022 and was later released on Apple TV+ while also playing in select theaters Oscars eligibility. It looks like the eligibility rules could soon be revised which could upset some of the streaming platforms.

Matthew Belloni of Puck reported that while it’s being kept quiet, the Academy could potentially implement new theatrical distribution requirements for films to be eligible for Best Picture. Bear in mind, this rule still needs to be approved by the 54-member board of governors next month, but this rule would require films to play in 15 or 20 of the top 50 markets for eligibility.

Initially, the eligibility rules for streaming releases were strict. Due to the pandemic, only films that were scheduled for theatrical releases were eligible for Best Picture (see, Warner Bros.-HBO Max’s day-and-date releases during the pandemic). You did have to do an obligatory theatrical release in Los Angeles and New York when it was possible, hence why many of Netflix‘s Oscar hopefuls occupy the Paris Theater in the fall season, but the rule was slightly modified the next year to include movies opening on streaming and VOD alike — they just once again had to be intended for theatrical releases.

What does this mean for all of the streamers? Well, a shift has already begun if you look closely. Killers of the Flower Moon, Martin Scorsese’s latest picture, is an Apple TV+ film (theatrical distribution is a combo of Apple TV+ and Paramount) and will stream on the service eventually, but it will get a limited release in theaters on October 6 before going wide on October 20. A streaming release date hasn’t even been announced yet.

Ben Affleck’s Air — which we will have a review of next week — is a Prime Video film that’s only holding in-person screenings (meaning no digital screeners for critics) and will receive a full theatrical release before sniffing Prime Video.

With the new rules in place, it’ll make theatrical releases for streamers more accessible for more markets but cost the services themselves more if they hope to take home Best Picture (something Netflix has been striving for years). At least the theater chains that do Best Picture marathons may finally be able to show all of the nominees once again.

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Nish Patel

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