Life After COVID-19: Streaming Films Now Eligible for Oscars 2021


Martin Vorel

The Academy makes changes to eligibility rules in light of coronavirus (Courtesy LibreShot)

By Kate Button, Arts Writer, Copy Editor


As the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted several industries and daily routines, the Oscars look to cope with the closures of movie theaters by permitting streaming films to be eligible to win awards.

Prior to this pandemic, the requirements stated that a film must “be shown in a commercial motion picture theater in Los Angeles County for a theatrical qualifying run of at least seven consecutive days, during which period screenings must occur at least three times daily.” On March 16, however, all movie theaters in Los Angeles County closed in response to COVID-19.

Many major films — such as “A Quiet Place Part II,” “The French Dispatch” and “No Time to Die,” among others — have delayed their release dates to preserve the traditional movie theater experience of a film premiere. For films that have chosen to abide by their original release dates, or move up the film’s premiere — online settings including cable television, DVD distribution, inflight airline distribution and internet streaming services have all been marked as acceptable alternatives to the previous theater requirement.

While the physical theater requirement has been waived for the 93rd Oscars Ceremony in 2021, all other eligibility requirements for these films remain the same. “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,” said Academy President David Rubin and CEO Dawn Hudson. “Nonetheless, the historically tragic COVID-19 pandemic necessitates this temporary exception to our awards eligibility rules. The Academy supports our members and colleagues during this time of uncertainty. We recognize the importance of their work being seen and also celebrated, especially now, when audiences appreciate movies more than ever.” Despite the fact that movies are designed to be seen in theaters, the adaptation of these requirements for the Oscars represents necessary flexibility and accommodation for all audiences. Many people have turned to the arts to cope with the stress and anxiety with COVID-19, and movies are no exception.

At the moment, these changes to accept streaming releases and films that have premiered at theaters outside of Los Angeles will only last for the 2021 Oscars. Yet, in an effort to be more accommodating and modern, I hope that these rules remain in place once the world has recovered from COVID-19. Most years, I only have the chance to see a few Oscar-nominated films, however, if more of these movies were available online prior to the awards season, it would be much easier for many to demonstrate their support and love of film.

Many films have already capitalized upon the digital release in order to reach a wider range of audiences while still ensuring their eligibility for the upcoming Oscars season. To date, plenty of movies — “Fantasy Island,” “Trolls World Tour,” “Never Rarely Sometimes Always,” “Onward,” “The Lovebirds,” “Sonic the Hedgehog,” “Downhill,” “Birds of Prey” and “Emma,” among several others — have utilized a digital release format or early release date to continue to provide content for audiences while keeping the love of film alive.

Although COVID-19 has wreaked havoc upon the art world — which typically depends upon in-person events, displays and premieres — artists are working to ensure their own livelihoods while transforming their businesses to be more remote. Even if the Oscars 2021 exemption for streaming films is temporary, it shows just how essential the arts are in our daily lives. Films allow us to connect with others, expand our horizons and escape our everyday stressors, and even during a pandemic, these films should remain nominees for awards and they should be praised for their flexibility to adapt to whatever changes are deemed necessary for public health and safety.


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