A fundamental change in The Academy’s rules for awards qualification may be on the verge of taking place. Puck News columnist Matthew Belloni is reporting that the Academy’s CEO Bill Kramer is preparing a rule change that will require any film to be screened in 15-20 of the top 50 DMAs in the U.S. to qualify for awards consideration. The Board of Governors is likely to pass the new measure in a vote scheduled for late April.
The new rule is intended to encourage studios to undertake wide theatrical releases for their most worthy titles. Notably, these rules would have disqualified some films that were nominated this past year, including Netflix’s ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT and GUILLERMO DEL TORO’S PINOCCHIO and the indie hit TO, LESLIE.
Among major studios, Netflix would be most impacted by the change since its leadership has taken a stance that theatrical releasing for its new movies is secondary to their success on the streaming platform, mostly as a gesture to satisfy filmmakers and talent involved in their productions.
On the other hand, Netflix has shown strong interest in competing at the Oscars and for other major industry awards. These new rules would force them to either step back from their awards pursuits or get serious about theatrical distribution.
Some are also concerned that these new rules would squeeze out smaller films from the awards race because it could be financially difficult for indie distributors to invest in campaigns to play their films in 15-20 major cities. For example, last year Andrea Riseborough received the Best Actress nomination for TO, LESLIE despite the movie playing in L.A. only where it sold $27,000 in tickets.
On the other hand, Kramer is interested in taking steps to empower exhibitions. It is also reported that he will push for an additional requirement that movies have at least a two-week exclusive run in theatres to qualify. While the Academy’s Board of Directors may not approve all of these measures, the fact that they are being proposed signals strong support for theatrical release.