Oscars: Academy Expands Use of Digital Screeners to Include Documentary Contenders

oscar laptop graphic H 2016
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences; iStock

In 2012, the introduction of online voting for the Oscars caused a panic among many members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. This year, THR has learned, a sizable portion not only will cast e-ballots but will do so after streaming contenders through the organization's online portal.

It's all part of a push by the group to increase engagement (50 percent of members are based outside Los Angeles, where most screenings take place) and crack down on piracy (DVD screeners often wind up in the wrong hands).

The Academy first beta tested streaming last season. Pre-nominations, short films and feature animation branch members were able to stream films eligible for best animated feature and animated and live-action shorts. Then, post-noms, members based outside L.A. were able to watch all nominees for best documentary feature and short, animated short, live-action short and foreign-language film.

During this season's pre-nom period, the Academy will expand streaming to include doc branch members, who now will be able to see films eligible for both doc features and shorts. Post-noms, additional categories likely will be streamed.

While most filmmakers prefer members to see their work on a big screen, that's not always possible — the beta-tested branches have large international contingents, hence their prioritization thus far — so streaming is an attractive alternative.

"It's exceeded our expectations," says Academy CEO Dawn Hudson, who has led the streaming charge. "Our goal is to add even more categories in the future, from nominations through finals, as long as the platform meets the Academy's standard for sound and picture quality."

A version of this story first appeared in the Aug. 12 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.