In a move designed to signal Hollywood’s commitment to the moviegoing experience, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said on Wednesday that it would require an expanded theatrical release for films seeking to be eligible for a best picture nomination.
The new eligibility rule is sure to affect how Netflix and other streaming services release films they consider to be Oscar worthy. And it could be an impediment to smaller distributors that lack the means to release films in cities across the United States.
Oscar-oriented films have struggled mightily at the box office in recent years, making some people wonder if the importance of big screens has been forever altered by the streaming era. In 2022, “CODA” from Apple TV+ was the first film from a streaming service to win the best picture Oscar.
To be eligible for a best picture nomination, films are already required to have an initial qualifying run in theaters, defined as a one-week release in one of six U.S. cities (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, San Francisco or Miami). Beginning in 2024, those films will also need a theatrical presence for another seven days (either consecutive or nonconsecutive) in 10 of the top 50 U.S. markets, no later than 45 days after its initial release. Two of the 10 markets in the expanded release can be outside the United States if they are among the top 15 international theatrical markets.
The move, voted on by the academy’s board of governors at its most recent meeting, is a clear attempt to prevent streaming companies like Netflix, which prefer to release films on their services with as little theatrical presence as possible, from eroding the moviegoing experience.
“It is our hope that this expanded theatrical footprint will increase the visibility of films worldwide and encourage audiences to experience our art form in a theatrical setting,” the academy’s chief executive, Bill Kramer, and president, Janet Yang, said in a statement. “Based on many conversations with industry partners, we feel that this evolution benefits film artists and movie lovers alike.”
For films released late in the year, the distributors must submit their plans for the expanded release. Those plans must be completed no later than Jan. 24, 2025, for the 2024 films.
Netflix said the eligibility requirements would not have a significant effect on its release strategy. It noted that “All Quiet on the Western Front,” which was nominated for best picture this year, was released in 35 theaters in 20 cities, including New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Toronto.