Netflix, Amazon, and other streaming services will continue to be free to submit their films to the Oscars next year, after the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences decided against changing its entry rules to more clearly favor films intended primarily for theatrical release. The Academy announced that Rule Two, which says a film is eligible to be considered for an Oscar so long as it has a seven-day run in an LA theater, will remain unchanged for the 92nd Academy Awards in 2020, despite suggestions that it should be changed to require a longer theatrical run from potential nominees.
The rule changes were being considered after Netflix earned its first Best Picture nomination, for Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma, which was entered after having a three-week run across just 100 theaters in the US. Detractors like Steven Spielberg have argued that films from streaming services, which will primarily be watched on televisions, should not be considered for inclusion based on “token qualifications in a couple of theaters for less than a week.”
Alongside the decision about Rule Two, the Academy also announced minor changes to the awards for next year. The Animated Feature category will now no longer require eight eligible animated films to be released in a given year for the award to exist, and the Foreign Language Film award has been renamed to International Feature Film. The Academy’s press release includes a statement from the International Feature Film Committee: “We have noted that the reference to ‘Foreign’ is outdated within the global filmmaking community. 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.”
Despite the lack of changes to the entry criteria, Netflix is unlikely to abandon its plans to get its films into traditional cinemas. Many prestige directors still take theatrical runs seriously, and Netflix needs to offer them if it wants to attract this talent. The streaming service is reportedly planning a wide theatrical run for its upcoming Martin Scorsese film The Irishman, and is in talks with theaters to offer them a run of as much as 72 days on more than 110 screens ahead of the film’s Netflix release. Netflix is also in talks to buy a cinema of its own, the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, which it could use to premiere potential awards candidates in a historically prestigious setting.