Movies that debuted on a streaming service without a theatrical run will be eligible for the Oscars, but only for this year.
The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences announced on Tuesday the change for the 93rd Academy Awards as a response to how the coronavirus pandemic has impacted the film industry.
The film academy also said it will condense the two sound categories into one and prohibit DVD screeners for 2022's 94th Oscars in an effort to become more carbon neutral.
Oscars eligibility has been a major question since stay at home and social distancing orders led to both the cancellation of major film festivals and the closure of movie theatres. Previously, a film would have to have a minimum seven-day theatrical run in a Los Angeles County commercial theatre in order to be considered for film's highest honour. Now films that had a previously planned theatrical release but are made available on a home video on demand service may qualify for best picture and other categories.
“The Academy firmly believes there is no greater way to experience the magic of movies than to see them in a theatre. Our commitment to that is unchanged and unwavering,” said Academy president, David Rubin, and chief executive, Dawn Hudson, in a statement.
“Nonetheless, the historically tragic Covid-19 pandemic necessitates this temporary exception to our awards eligibility rules.”
The academy's board noted, however, that when theatres reopen, the rules exemption will no longer apply. Many expect cinemas nationwide to reopen by June or July. If that is the case, the film academy will expand the qualifying theatres beyond Los Angeles County to include venues in New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, Miami and Atlanta.
Other changes included combining the sound mixing and sound editing categories into best achievement in sound, to emphasise the teamwork involved.
Additionally, all film academy members are now able to vote in the first round for international feature film, the category formerly known as best foreign language film.
The board also said for a film score to be eligible in the original score category, it must have 60 per cent original music. For sequels and franchise films, there must be a minimum of 80 per cent new music.
The 93rd Academy Awards are scheduled to be held in Los Angeles on February 28, 2021.