The Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) has announced new theatrical release guidelines in order to qualify for Best Picture that will go into effect for the 97th Oscars in 2025.
Beginning next year, films released in 2024 will not only have to complete the existing one-week qualifying run in one of the six U.S. markets (Los Angeles, New York City, Miami, San Francisco Bay Area, Atlanta, Chicago) but five more added requirements:
- Expanded theatrical run of seven days, consecutive or non-consecutive, in 10 of the top 50 U.S. markets, no later than 45 days after the initial release in 2024.
- For late-in-the-year films with expansions after January 10, 2025, distributors must submit release plans to the Academy for verification.
- Release plans for late-in-the-year films must include a planned expanded theatrical run, as described above, to be completed no later than January 24, 2025.
- Non-U.S. territory releases can count towards two of the 10 markets.
- Qualifying non-U.S. markets include the top 15 international theatrical markets plus the home territory for the film.
In a joint statement Academy CEO Bill Kramer and Academy President Janet Yang said: “As we do every year, we have been reviewing and assessing our theatrical eligibility requirements for the Oscars. In support of our mission to celebrate and honor the arts and sciences of moviemaking, 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. Based on many conversations with industry partners, we feel that this evolution benefits film artists and movie lovers alike.”
This additional rule bolsters the Academy’s commitment to restoring theatrical runs and exhibitions after COVID-19 shut down theaters and the Oscars made significant, and temporary, changes to eligibility for streaming-only releases. While this new rule only affects Best Picture, it’s also a direct challenge to the major streamers like Netflix, Apple and Amazon, who’ve enjoyed the Academy’s one-week-only requirement for theatrical exhibition. All three have made efforts in recent seasons to account for and get ahead of this, with Amazon releasing Ben Affleck’s Air on over 3500 screens this spring and Apple partnering with major studio distributors for its awards tentpoles this fall, Killers of the Flower Moon in October with Paramount Pictures and Napoleon in November with Sony Pictures. Netflix has experimented with select titles to have longer theatrical runs before hitting the streaming platform (Bardo was out for nearly a month last season) but will have to commit to more and longer pre-streaming runs in the future.
But it’s not just streamers who will be impacted, indie and boutique studios have enjoyed the limited run qualifying release schedule for years, sometimes holding their one-week December run for a wider expansion as far out as February but now, with the full theatrical run needing to be completed by the end of January (right around the time of the Oscar nominations themselves), everyone from NEON to A24 to Sony Pictures Classics will have to rethink their longer, more expansive theatrical releases.
This new rule is one in the long line of recent rule and eligibility updates at the Oscars over the last decade. From the wake of #OscarsSoWhite in 2015 kickstarting a massive increase in membership, to original song and original score changes, campaigning as a result of the Andrea Riseborough Best Actress drama last season, and most importantly, the Academy Aperture initiative that goes into effect this season, which requires all Best Picture nominees to qualify under a set of requirements (don’t let anyone fool you, these are by and large really easy to achieve), the Oscars are in a constant state of evolution and we can expect more in the near future.