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With Theaters Closed, Academy Rewrites Oscar Rules

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And the Oscar goes to... a movie that never played in a theater?

In a fundamental rewriting of its eligibility rules, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said films don’t have to be released theatrically to qualify for next year’s Oscars.

With almost all of the nation’s theaters closed for the immediate future, the academy on Tuesday said films that debut on video-on-demand platforms or streaming sites could now compete, as long as they previously were scheduled to be released in theaters.

At the same time, the sound mixing and sound editing categories will be combined into one sound award.

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Academy President David Rubin and CEO Dawn Hudson said in a joint statement:

“The academy firmly believes there is no greater way to experience the magic of movies than to see them in a theater. Our commitment to that is unchanged and unwavering. Nonetheless, the historically tragic COVID-19 pandemic necessitates this temporary exception to our awards eligibility rules.”

To be eligible for an award, distributors must make their digitally released films available on a secure academy streaming site within two months of the film’s streaming or VOD debut. If theaters reopen nationally, the academy said its new rules could be revoked.

At that point going forward, the usual qualifying requirements would return: a run of at least seven consecutive days, with screenings at least three times daily.

The 93rd Oscars is scheduled for Feb. 28.

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