The board of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has voted to uphold Rule Two, Eligibility, which requires a film to screen in a Los Angeles County theater for no more than a week in order to become eligible for the best picture Oscar. This means that films distributed by streaming services do not need to receive long theatrical releases in order to be in contention for the Oscars. The 54-person board of governors voted to keep the standard in place at its annual April rules meeting this week.
The debate surrounding the rule was fueled by outcry from a few select members of the Hollywood community, most notably director Steven Spielberg, after Netflix’s Roma took home three Academy Awards this year despite losing out on Best Picture to Green Book. Spielberg, who sits on the Academy board himself, suggested a change to the rule that would lengthen the requirement for theatrical appearances by streaming films. However, it appears Spielberg’s quarrel was not with streaming services in general, but rather with Netflix in particular, as it was just revealed that he will take a key role in the slate of original programming for Apple’s new streaming service, Apple TV+.
That being said, the Academy board made it clear that the rule change is still very much an open question.
“We support the theatrical experience as integral to the art of motion pictures, and this weighed heavily in our discussions,” Academy president John Bailey said in a statement. “Our rules currently require theatrical exhibition, and also allow for a broad selection of films to be submitted for Oscars consideration. We plan to further study the profound changes occurring in our industry and continue discussions with our members about these issues.”
Among the other measures passed by the Academy board at their April meeting was a rule change to make Best Animated Feature a recurring category, regardless of how many eligible animated films came out that year. The board also passed a resolution that changes the name of the foreign language film category to the international feature film category and expands the number of films in contention to 10 instead of nine. The makeup and hairstyling category has also been expanded to include five films instead of three in order to conform with most other categories. The new measures will go into effect for the season preceding the 92nd Academy Awards, which are set to take place on Feb. 9, 2020.
Check out the complete list of rules for the 92nd Oscars here.