Oscars Best Picture rules are changing to exclude streaming movies that don't have a full theatrical run.
In the streaming age, it seems as if Netflix is the only company that actively resists putting its films in theaters, but a new requirement by the Academy may usher in a change that will force their hand. According to Puck, a new rule may be put in place to require films to have a proper theater run to be eligible for an Oscar nomination, and can’t be nominated based on streaming numbers alone. This could be seen as an effort to save movie theaters.
By now, it’s no mystery that movie theaters took a financial beating during the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, Regal Cinemas, the second-largest movie theater chain in the US, is in the process of shutting down 39 theaters after its parent company, Cineworld, filed for bankruptcy in September 2022. So what does this have to do with the Oscars and streaming?
The simple fact is that the movie theater experience is on its way to becoming a thing of the past. Changing the requirement to be eligible for the Oscars, would encourage streaming services to give their original content a proper theater run. Up to this point, Netflix has only been giving their films a one-week theater run, just to be eligible, before only making them available on their platform.
The new rule would require films considered “Oscar bait” to play in theaters in 15 or 20 top markets (L.A., New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Miami, or Atlanta) in the US to be considered eligible for the Best Picture award. Another caveat that’s been a subject of conversation is that these Oscar-worthy films would also need to first play in theaters before being available for streaming. The goal of the Academy isn’t to hurt streaming but rather to help theaters get some more leverage during such uncertain economic times.
Though Netflix is not thrilled about this new requirement for Oscar eligibility, Amazon and Apple are on board with offering a theatrical release of a film before making it available for streaming. In other words, an expanded theatrical requirement for companies like Netflix isn’t necessarily bad because it could be an instrumental strategy in saving movie theaters from going extinct. Though it seems as if Netflix’s CEO, Ted Sarandos, is resistant to the idea, Scott Stuber, the streaming giant’s film chief, could be on board with this.
Stuber has gone on record stating that he wants Netflix to try more theatrical experiments, which could potentially be in line with the proposed Oscar requirement, and would actually make sense for Netflix and other streaming platforms. However, Sarandos, as well as Netflix co-founder Reed Hastings are mostly resistant to theatrical release, and only do so in a minimal capacity to get leverage for Oscar nominations.
If the Academy follows through with this proposed change, it could be a massive win for movie theaters and would certainly level the playing field. Companies like Netflix, who are seemingly resistant to this kind of change, would have to follow proper protocol to get their original films Oscar consideration. But is it all bad if it’s filling seats at the cinema?