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COVID-19 Strikes Back: The Academy Awards Will Accept Some Digital-Only Movies This Year

By Anders Bylund – Apr 29, 2020 at 10:39AM

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The Academy made it very clear that these changes are temporary and they come with some tight requirements.

The COVID-19 health crisis isn't done shaking up the movie industry. After closing movie theaters worldwide and remaking every movie studio's release schedule, the virus has inspired a different rulebook for the 93rd Academy Awards. This year, and this year only, the Academy will consider films that never had a proper screening in theaters.

What's new?

Traditionally, movies cannot be considered for Oscars unless they have had a theatrical run of at least seven consecutive days in Los Angeles County, featuring at least three daily screenings in a commercial theater. This time, commercial streaming or video-on-demand services will do, with a couple of interesting caveats:

  • The film must be uploaded to the secure screening site for Academy members within 60 days of its original release.
  • The movie must have been planned for a proper run in theaters before the novel coronavirus forced a change of plans.

This rule change is not a general invitation to movies from Netflix (NFLX 1.68%), Amazon Prime Video (AMZN 0.56%), and Disney (DIS 0.42%) subsidiaries Hulu or Disney+ that were never intended for the silver screen. It's a temporary plan to patch the damage done by COVID-19.

Close-up shot of a hand holding an award against a red carpet.

Image source: Getty Images.

The Academy also expanded the Los Angeles County requirement to several new areas in order to accommodate limited-travel policies when theaters open up again. Qualifying theaters for this year's Awards can be found in New York City, the San Francisco Bay Area, Chicago, Miami, and Atlanta.

This will also be the last time the Academy allows DVD screeners, printed screenplays, and music CDs to be distributed. The secure streaming site will handle all of the media-screening operations going forward.

Again, most of these rule changes are temporary, but I wouldn't be surprised to see the streaming giants mentioned above campaigning for making them permanent.

John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Anders Bylund owns shares of Amazon, Netflix, and Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Amazon, Netflix, and Walt Disney and recommends the following options: long January 2021 $60 calls on Walt Disney, short January 2022 $1940 calls on Amazon, long January 2022 $1920 calls on Amazon, and short July 2020 $115 calls on Walt Disney. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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