Oscars say streaming-only films are eligible for Academy Awards this year

Due to the coronavirus outbreak, movies that never made it to the theater will be considered for the golden statuettes.

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CNET editor Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, a journalist and pop-culture junkie, is co-author of "Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops? The Lost Toys, Tastes and Trends of the '70s and '80s," as well as "The Totally Sweet '90s." She's been a journalist since 1989, working at Mpls.St.Paul Magazine, Twin Cities Sidewalk, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and NBC News Digital. She's Gen X in birthdate, word and deed. If Marathon candy bars ever come back, she'll be first in line.
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Gael Cooper
2 min read

The Academy Awards aren't big on change, but the coronavirus outbreak has forced some adjustments to film eligibility. 

Mark Ralston/AFP via Getty Images

The Academy Awards usually require that an eligible film run for seven days in a commercial movie theater in Los Angeles County. But this year, with many movies unable to open in regular theaters due to the coronavirus outbreak and moving instead to streaming services, the Oscars are shifting their rules.

After a meeting on Tuesday, the Academy announced that its board of governors is putting a temporary hold on that in-theater requirement. In a statement, the group said it will consider films that were released digitally and did not play in theaters. The movies must have had a planned theatrical release and be made eligible for Academy members to view via streaming.

"The Academy firmly believes there is no greater way to experience the magic of movies than to see them in a theater.  Our commitment to that is unchanged and unwavering," Academy President David Rubin and CEO Dawn Hudson said in a statement. "Nonetheless, the historically tragic COVID-19 pandemic necessitates this temporary exception to our awards eligibility rules."

Films that meet the requirements may qualify in the best picture, general entry and specialty categories, the statement reads.

The Academy also announced other changes to the awards. Sound mixing and sound editing categories will now be combined into one award. Films qualifying for the music (original score) category must comprise a minimum of 60% original music, while sequels and franchise films must have a minimum of 80% new music. 

Also going forward, all Academy members may take part in the preliminary round of voting for the international feature film category. That category was previously limited to those who could attend screenings at the group's California headquarters.

The 93rd annual Academy Awards are scheduled to take place February 28, 2021.

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