BAFTA Tweaks Eligibility Rules for Pandemic-Impacted 2021 Films Awards

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A BAFTA Award

Films that were shifted to a VOD release after cinemas closed will still be eligible, the British Academy has confirmed.

Following on the heels of AMPAS, the British Academy has now revealed that it is making temporary changes to the eligibility criteria for its 2021 film awards, which have been moved from Feb. 14 to April 11 due to the novel coronavirus pandemic and Oscars date shift.  

Essentially, the tweaks are there to assist those films impacted by the COVID-19 lockdown, including those moved to a VOD release rather than theatrical after cinemas closed. These changes include: 

1. Titles which were on theatrical release when cinemas closed and therefore had their theatrical release curtailed, will be eligible regardless of the number of qualifying screenings they had.

2. Titles whose confirmed theatrical release date (as determined by the Film Distributors Association) has fallen during the cinema lockdown will be eligible should their release change to an approved commercial VOD platform. These titles can be released at any time during the 2020–21 eligibility period.

3. Titles which were intended for theatrical release during the cinema lockdown, but without a confirmed and published release date, will be eligible should they release on an approved commercial VOD platform during lockdown. After lockdown, on a date determined by BAFTA and once cinemas re-open, these titles will only be eligible if they are given a theatrical release.

4. On a date to be determined by BAFTA and once cinemas re-open, all remaining titles, barring the exceptions outlined in points 2 & 3, must be released theatrically within the eligibility period in order to qualify.

5. All titles released theatrically for the rest of the eligibility period will have a lower qualifying threshold to meet: a minimum of one screening per day for seven days (in aggregate).

6. Titles qualifying via release on an approved commercial VOD platform must be available for a minimum of 30 days to UK audiences.

7. All titles must also be made available to BAFTA voting members on BAFTA View [BAFTA’s online viewing site] as soon as possible after the date of release and within 60 days of release (theatrical or online) for a minimum of 30 consecutive days. All titles should be available to voting members via BAFTA View by the date that Round One voting opens (date to be announced autumn 2020).

8. All releases, whether theatrical or on VOD, must be released within the Film 2020-21 eligibility period – this period will be announced autumn 2020. 

“We have pushed back by two months to give all films the best possible chance to be released and considered properly," said Marc Samuelson, chair of BAFTA's film committee. "As cinemas gradually re-open we know that the major releases will dominate screens. Relaxing the scale of theatrical release required, including releases on VOD in some cases, and pushing back the date of the awards should help the smaller, independent, documentary, foreign-language and particularly the British films to be seen in good time for the British Academy Film Awards in 2021.The date of the 2021 awards has to be set now to allow distributors to make plans, but the current awards review is considering all aspects of the awards, including the date from 2022, and our relationship to other awards ceremonies."