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Hollywood Insider 2021 Academy Awards Oscars New Rules Regulations

Photo: Academy Awards

The 93rd annual Academy Awards is scheduled to take place on February 28, 2021, despite the current global pandemic. While the entertainment industry has been completely disrupted in 2020, the board of directors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has agreed to temporarily alter the existing rules of eligibility. What does this mean for 2021 Academy Awards? While the film industry remains fluid at present, it seems the award industry is riding the ebb and flow of the unknown. The strict existing criteria established by the board of directors have been temporarily altered, much to the approval of production companies around the world.

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Movie Theaters are Closed. What is the Alternative for eligibility for 2021 Academy Awards? 

1. One of the most notable alterations is the previously mandatory standard seven-day theatrical run.

    • Under the original stipulations, a film must have screened in theaters for at least seven days to be considered for nomination. Because of the abnormal situation the industry is facing, the Academy agreed to make an exception, as long as the film was originally intended for a theatrical run. The most notable instance of this is the animated feature Trolls World Tour. Dreamworks Animation’s sequel to 2016’s record-breaking Trolls debuted directly on streaming platforms on April 10, 2020 after being caught in a less than cheerful predicament.
    • Originally scheduled for a theatrical release on April 17, 2020, the creatures clad in various shades of the rainbow were up against a trickier enemy than the Bergens. With cinemas around the world forced to close, the film had nowhere to shine. The best alternative, according to Universal, Dreamworks Animation’s parent company, was to release the euphonious flick straight to the home viewing sector.
    • This move was a financial success for the studio but proved incredibly controversial to movie theater chains near and far. Many viewed the move as a kick when they were already down, sounding off on Universal’s failure to respect the 60-day theatrical window of releases from theater to home viewing.

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    • While the future of the theater industry is a mystery to everyone, a definitive fact is Trolls World Tour will be eligible for a nomination for the 2021 Academy Awards ceremony. Aside from having been originally intended for a theatrical release, films must also be made available on the Academy’s exclusive streaming site within 60 days of release on a streaming platform.
    • There will surely be more films in 2020 that take this unconventional route, and if the film was originally intended for a theatrical release, they too will be eligible for a nomination. While this may not sit well with the theater owners, the Academy has made their stance on the matter clear; the eligibility changes are temporary, and they fully support the theatrical experience.

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2. Speaking of streaming and video on demand, this will be the last year that physical DVD screeners are sent to voting members of the Academy.

  • A screener is an advanced copy of a film that is made available to eligible voting members in order to critique. Moving forward, all eligibility screeners will be made available on the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences member platform. DVDs are on the fritz, falling victim to the ease of access the technological advances can provide.

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Do I Hear Changes to the Sound Categories for 2021 Academy Awards?

3. Award shows are notorious for being long events, dragging several hours in length. Shortening the length of the broadcast. 

  • Diving deeper and deeper into the notable roles in the film industry, the Academy has long brainstormed ideas for chipping away at the ceremony’s run time. The Sound Mixing and Sound Editing categories will become one. During the past few years, these categories have produced the same winner for each. It makes a great deal of sense to combine such categories. After all, isn’t sound mixing a form of editing? It serves little purpose to distinguish between such paltry differences.

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4. On an international level, the criteria are bending slightly.

  • While the rules regarding each country submit their own choice for Best International Film, all eligible voting members will be allowed to vote in the preliminary rounds. All voting members will also now have access to the films that qualify on the Academy’s members-only platform. 

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South by South West Goes South

5. Virtual screenings of independent features

  • While large gatherings of people are prohibited, “social distancing” is the phrase we’ll never want repeated when our world begins to heal. With the many unfathomable downsides associated with this pandemic, live events are just a no-go. Since SXSW films obviously can’t be pulling in a sold-out crowd, virtual screenings of independent features will qualify for a nomination as well. Similar to the other changes, the festival films must also be published for others to have the ability to access them on an on-demand platform.
  • If the studio fails to make the film available on Academy voting platforms, their eligibility will blow South along with their chances of winning an Oscar.

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An important exception regarding films released in 2020 when movie theaters reopen is a standard gladly welcomed by the theater industry. Any film released after theaters reopen will not be eligible for the rule exemption. In other words, if Christopher Nolan’s Tenet is released straight to a streaming platform AFTER movie theaters reopen, it must comply with the standard theatrical window and would be in defiance of the window, rendering the film ineligible. 

With all of the changes plaguing our world today, it is hard to find a silver lining. In this case, we may have the opportunity to see unlikely films be rightfully recognized by the Academy due to this tangible glitch we are existing in at present. A silver lining for the silver screen… 

Is this perhaps a chance for Netflix/Apple TV+ movies to qualify for Academy Awards without any controversy? Is this perhaps the beginning of the reign of streaming? Many movies like The Irishman and Roma have felt the brunt of being made by Netflix when it came to being considered for Oscars, but does this mean they are a part of the cool crowd now? For 2021 Academy Awards, they definitely are. 

By Raquel Kokkoros

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