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Academy Doesn’t Shut Netflix Out in Latest Oscars Rules Update

Academy updates rules for Foreign films, makeup and hairstyling, animated feature film and short film categories

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has opted against changes to Oscars eligibility that could have shut Netflix productions out of future ceremonies.

In a vote on Tuesday night, the Academy’s Board of Governors voted to maintain Rule Two, which holds that a film must screen in a Los Angeles County commercial theater for a minimum of seven days, with at least three screenings per day, in order to be eligible for Academy Awards categories. The board ruled also that films released on nontheatrical media — such as streaming platforms like Netflix — on or after the first day of their theatrical qualifying run will still be eligible.

“We support the theatrical experience as integral to the art of motion pictures, and this weighed heavily in our discussions,” Academy President John Bailey said in a statement. “Our rules currently require theatrical exhibition, and also allow for a broad selection of films to be submitted for Oscars consideration. We plan to further study the profound changes occurring in our industry and continue discussions with our members about these issues.”

It was reported in March that Steven Spielberg intended to propose a rule change during the Board of Governors’ meeting that would restrict eligibility for films that do not have a significant theatrical run.

The potential rule change sparked a debate among filmmakers, with directors like Ava DuVernay, who is releasing her limited series on the Central Park Five on Netflix, publicly opposing the change.

The Academy even received a letter from the U.S. Department of Justice warning the Academy that a change to the eligibility rules could be in violation of anti-trust laws. However, the Academy never issued any public comment on the report, and it is not known how likely such a rule changes was.

Beyond the eligibility rules, the Academy made several other minor rule changes for the 92nd Oscars. The Foreign Language film category will now be called the “International Feature Film Award.”

“We have noted that the reference to ‘Foreign’ is outdated within the global filmmaking community,” Larry Karaszewski and Diane Weyermann, co-chairs of the International Feature Film Committee, said in a statement. “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.”

The name change does not effect any existing category rules, the submission process or the eligibility requirements. However, the category’s short list will be expanded from nine films to 10.

Seven of those 10 will be selected by Phase 1 International Feature Film Committee, which is made up of Los Angeles-based volunteers who screen and score a minimum number of the eligible films, with the final three voted by the International Feature Film Award Executive Committee, a hand-picked group of a couple dozen foreign-film aficionados who “save” notable films that were overlooked by the general committee.

The organization also announced additional rule changes in the Animated Feature, Makeup and Hairstyling and Animated and Live Action Short Film categories.

In the Makeup and Hairstyling category, five films will now be nominated instead of just three, and the shortlist for the category is increasing from seven films to 10. In addition, the bake-off reels for the films shall not exceed seven minutes in total running time.

In the Animated Feature category, the category will still be presented even if there are not at least the previously required eight eligible animated films released theatrically in a calendar year. In addition, nominations voting will be automatically open to all active members of the Short Films and Feature Animation Branch. Other active voting members of the Academy must opt-in to participate in the nominations round.

And in the Short Film categories, Animated and Live Action Short Films now have the option to qualify theatrically in either New York or Los Angeles County to be eligible for submission. In the past, they needed a qualifying run in both locations.

Other amendments to the rules include standard date changes and “housekeeping” adjustments.

Rules are reviewed annually by individual branch and category committees. The Awards and Events Committee then reviews all proposed changes before presenting its recommendations to the Board of Governors for final approval.

The 92nd Oscars will be held on Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020.

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