The 2021 Oscars are finally going with flow — of streaming movies.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced Tuesday that, due to the coronavirus pandemic, streaming-only films will be eligible for the Academy Awards for the first time. And for one year only.
“The Academy firmly believes there is no greater way to experience the magic of movies than to see them in a theater,” Academy President David Rubin and CEO Dawn Hudson said in a statement. “Our commitment to that is unchanged and unwavering. Nonetheless, the historically tragic COVID-19 pandemic necessitates this temporary exception to our awards eligibility rules.”
While in the past, Netflix movies such as “The Irishman” and “Marriage Story” have been nominated, they were up for Oscars only because they also enjoyed short runs at brick-and-mortar theaters in select cities.
However, with no widespread reopening in sight for major theater chains such as AMC and Regal, the antiquated rule would’ve forced the postponement or outright cancellation of the 93rd Academy Awards, due to take place on Feb. 27, 2021.
Although the Academy maintains this is a one-year-only bend of the rules, direct-to-digital film releases are likely here to stay.
Universal Studios’ “Trolls World Tour,” which was dropped on at-home platforms such as Amazon Prime and iTunes, generated $100 million in revenue in three weeks, according to IndieWire. That success led Jeff Shell, the CEO of its parent company NBC Universal, to champion the shift. “As soon as theaters reopen, we expect to release movies on both formats,” he said.
And upcoming film festivals that are major stops during awards season, such as the Toronto International Film Festival and New York Film Festival, are reportedly considering remote, digital viewing options.