More Changes to Oscar Rules Ahead

3 min read

Just last week we saw a critical shift in Oscar eligibility requirements for the coveted Best Picture category, part of a longer series of revisions to the Oscar rules set to update them for the changed release landscape. Intriguingly, this new move shows stronger support for the exhibition industry, too, and some are describing it as a landmark change. Luckily Blake & Wang P.A’s Brandon Blake, industry expert entertainment attorney, is here to guide us through the change.

New Rules from 2024

The changes will affect titles hoping to compete from 2024, the 97th Academy Awards ceremony. The requirement for an initial qualifying run of one-week in theaters in one of 6 key US cities remains, but now with further benchmarks to meet. These include:

  • An expanded theater run of 7 days (can be non-consecutive or consecutive), to occur no later than 45 days after initial release, in 10 of the top 50 domestic markets.
  • For films released late in the Oscar’s cycle (after January 10 2025), the distributors must release their distribution plans to the Academy to verify they match the new guidelines. The expanded theatrical run for these plans cannot complete later than January 24th, 2025.

Alternatively, non-US territories can be offered, but only up to 2 of the 10 required markets. They must be from the Top 15 international theater markets, or the home territory for the film. While these requirements are only for the Best Picture category, let’s be blunt- that’s the one most films want to be in the running for.

Increasing Film Visibility

Part of the stated reasons for the change is the hopes that an expanded theatrical footprint will help raise the profile of ‘Oscar worthy’ films globally, as well as encourage continued support of the theatrical market. We’ve been hearing discussions around this very concept for a while now, with some pushing for even longer qualifying runs. We assume a conservative approach was taken to reduce the impact on specialty and smaller distributors. Let’s not forget that, while streaming has become a key distribution vehicle in recent years, one of the stated purposes behind the Academy has always been to support movies on the big screen. Yet we’ve still seen streamers do the bare minimum of releases needed to qualify- as CODA, Apple’s first winning title and the first Best Picture win for any streaming platform, sadly exemplifies.

The new requirements subtly encourage theatrical runs past the minimum, also steering away from a rush to day-and-date style releases. Nor should it be seen as a punitive measure against streamers, or intended to vastly change their operational models. It’s been proven over and over again that theatrical exposure does much for the visibility of films, as well as working effectively with subsequent streaming strategies. In fact, we’ve seen streamers experimenting with larger release footprints for similar reasons. As we see streaming evolve into a lynchpin of the distribution market, keeping a healthy theatrical/streaming ecosystem should be of benefit to all parties.


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