It’s back to the future for the Oscars.
After two pandemic years in which Netflix, Apple, Amazon, Hulu, and other streamers could qualify their films just on streaming platforms, the party is over.
The Motion Picture Academy has decreed that only movies that play in theaters will be eligible for the gold statues.
Academy Awards of Merit shall be given annually to honor outstanding artistic and scientific
achievements in theatrically released feature-length motion pictures, and to honor other
achievements as provided for in these rules and approved by the Board of Governors.
Films that, in any version, receive their first public exhibition or distribution in any manner other than
as a theatrical motion picture release will not be eligible for Academy Awards in any category.
Nontheatrical public exhibition or distribution includes but is not limited to:
• Broadcast and cable television
• DVD distribution
• Inflight airline distribution
• Internet transmission
This return to old form isn’t great news for coming films like Apple’s “Cha Cha” or Netflix’s “Gray Man.” Also, this past season, the streamers did little to put their films in theaters at all. Best Picture winner “CODA” was almost entirely shown on the platform and not available widely in theaters.
But this change shouldn’t come as a surprise to the industry. Theater owners are struggling to stay alive at this point. The pandemic forced closures everywhere, particularly hard hit was Hollywood itself where the ArcLight Theaters were shut down as well as the Cinerama Dome. In New York, the lone free standing theater, the Paris, is leased for the time being to Netflix so they can exhibit their films according to eligibility rules.
The other frustration, of course, is that streamers that do put movies in theaters, even for a short time and in limited release, do not report box office numbers. So no one except the studio has any idea if anyone saw their film. In the case of “CODA,” for example, the release was briefly to 600 theaters. The gross was around $1 million.