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Arts and Entertainment

Oscars to Streamers: Show Your Movies in Theaters, Or Don't Come to Our Show

Two rows of gold Oscar statuettes sit on a lighted shelf.
Oscars statuettes are on display backstage during the 92nd Academy Awards in 2020.
(Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
Getty Images)
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Next year’s Oscars will have new rules.

And so far they don’t include posting guards to prevent another on-stage assault.

During the pandemic, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences scrapped one of the organization’s foundational Oscar requirements: that movies had to premiere in theaters to qualify for an Academy Award.

That change, which lasted two years, made sense. Most of the nation’s theaters were closed for most of 2020 and a good part of 2021.

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Now that most multiplexes have unlocked their doors, the academy no longer will accept films that premiered only on digital platforms. And that could change how streaming companies like Netflix, HBO Max, Apple TV Plus and Amazon Prime release their best movies going forward.

So What Now?

To compete in next year’s ceremony, feature films need to be released theatrically between Jan 1, 2022 and Dec 31, 2022.

Movies still can premiere in theaters and on digital platforms simultaneously, but can’t qualify if they skip the big screen altogether. What’s more, showing a film on the Oscars’ private streaming service — calledAcademy Streaming Room — no longer will suffice for qualification.

Why It Matters

Many of the past year’s most acclaimed streaming releases — including Apple TV + s best picture-winning Coda, and Netflix’s The Power of the Dog — premiered at prominent film festivals.

Coda played at the Sundance Film Festival (albeit online, as in-person attendance was canceled), while The Power of the Dog debuted at the Telluride Film Festival. Such premieres often help meet Oscar eligibility requirement.

At the same time, theatrical releases, even on a limited scale, can cost huge sums of money. Netflix is trying to cut costs, and last year’s Oscars were a financial disaster. The streamer spent tens of millions of dollars on “for your consideration” advertisements, screenings and events, and the epic effort yielded just one trophy, best director for Jane Campion’s work on Power of the Dog.

Yet if streamers do start releasing more movies at the multiplex, it will surely help theater owners. Box office returns for the first quarter of the year were down some 45% from pre-pandemic levels.

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Exhibitors need ticket buyers, and now the streamers need them, too, if they want to go to the Oscars.

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John Horn, entertainment reporter and host of our weekly podcast Retake, explores whether the stories that Hollywood tells about itself really reflect what's going on?