Academy Board Does Not Pass New Rule Targeting Netflix

"We plan to further study the profound changes occurring in our industry and continue discussions with our members about these issues,” Academy president John Bailey said.
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Netflix will not face a new roadblock in its quest to win a best picture Oscar.

At its annual April rules meeting, the 54-person board of governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences voted to maintain Rule Two, Eligibility — the one requiring no more than a one-week run in an Los Angeles County theater to qualify for the best picture Oscar race — for the season leading up to the 92nd Oscars, which is set to take place Feb. 9, 2020.

In the aftermath of Netflix's success with Roma at the 91st Oscars — the film won three Oscars, including best director, suggesting it came close to winning best picture, too — some in the Hollywood community, including directors branch governor Steven Spielberg, expressed a desire to make it harder for films that do not receive sizable theatrical runs to compete for the Academy's top honor.

But many key players in the Hollywood community, including indie filmmakers and filmmakers of color, rose up in defense of Netflix, or at least for not raising the bar for eligibility for the best picture Oscar. And that side has prevailed — for now.

(Moreover, some dozen members of the Academy board have worked with or are currently working with Netflix, suggesting they do not harbor major reservations about the streaming service.)

"Motion pictures released in nontheatrical media on or after the first day of their Los Angeles County theatrical qualifying run remain eligible," the Academy said late Tuesday night in a statement.

"We support the theatrical experience as integral to the art of motion pictures, and this weighed heavily in our discussions,” the statement quoted outgoing Academy president John Bailey as saying. "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."

The board did pass a few other measures that are likely to receive near-unanimous praise.

The release of eight eligible animated features within the calendar year is no longer required to trigger a best animated feature Oscar category — this is a reflection of the fact that far more than eight eligible animated features are released every year. Additionally, a committee of members of the short films and feature animation branch will no longer select the nominees in that category; all members of that branch will, and other Academy members may opt in to join them if they wish.

The foreign-language film category will now be called the international feature film category, a reflection of the increasingly global nature of filmmaking. "We have noted that the reference to 'foreign' is outdated within the global filmmaking community," Larry Karaszewski and Diane Weyermann, co-chairs of the International Feature Film Committee, are quoted as saying in the release. "We believe that international feature film better represents this category, and promotes a positive and inclusive view of filmmaking, and the art of film as a universal experience."

Non-American films have, in recent years, been winnowed down to a shortlist of nine titles; that number will now increase to 10, seven to be chosen by the Phase I International Feature Film Committee, and the additional three to be voted by the International Feature Film Award Executive Committee.

The makeup and hairstyling Oscar category has been expanded from three to five, conforming with almost all other categories, and those films will now be chosen from a shortlist of 10 titles, rather than seven. The shortlisted titles will still be screened at a "bake-off," but reels shown there may no longer exceed a runtime of seven minutes.

And finally, animated shorts and live-action shorts can now qualify with a theatrical screening in L.A. County or the City of New York, as opposed to just the former.