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Oscars to admit streamed films next year as COVID-19 upends movie theater rule

Oscars to admit streamed films next year as COVID-19 upends movie theater rule

The Oscars are the peak of the Hollywood awards season. (Photo: AFP/Mark Ralston)

Movies that skip the big screen will be allowed to contend for the Oscars, the Academy said Tuesday (Apr 28) in a significant rule change forced by the coronavirus pandemic.

The organisers said that films released only on streaming platforms or video on demand while movie theatres are closed due to the coronavirus pandemic will be eligible for the Academy Awards next year.

Traditionally the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences requires at least a seven-day run in Los Angeles theaters for movies to be eligible for Hollywood's biggest prize.

But movie theatres across the United States shut their doors in mid-March, forcing the postponement of major film releases. The three main movie theatre chains – AMC, Regal and Cinemark – have said they do not expect to reopen until late June or July.

The temporary change, which will apply only for next year's Oscars and will lapse when movie theatres reopen across the nation, was announced in a statement by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

The Academy, seen as the apex body of the Hollywood film industry, insisted that its commitment to viewing "the magic of movies" at a theater is "unchanged and unwavering."

"The Academy firmly believes there is no greater way to experience the magic of movies than to see them in a theatre. Our commitment to that is unchanged and unwavering. Nonetheless, the historically tragic COVID-19 pandemic necessitates this temporary exception to our awards eligibility rules," president David Rubin and chief executive Dawn Hudson said, referring to the disease caused by the virus.

Streaming platforms such as Netflix have upended Hollywood, drawing A-list stars such as Robert De Niro and Martin Scorsese and producing award-winning content like 2019 best foreign language winner Roma that have rivaled what traditional movie studios can offer.

Some films, including Universal Pictures animated Trolls World Tour, have been released directly to streaming platforms or video on demand.

Universal will do the same with the upcoming Judd Apatow comedy The King Of Staten Island, while Walt Disney has announced it will release children's fantasy film Artemis Fowl on its Disney+ streaming platform rather than wait for theaters to reopen. Others are expected to follow.

The Oscars, the highest awards in the movie industry, are still scheduled to take place in Hollywood on Feb 28, 2021.

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Source: Reuters/afp/ga