With physical screenings impossible, more than 80 movies have already paid $12,500 for spots in the Academy Screening Room
This time of year, the giant Samuel Goldwyn Theater at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Beverly Hills headquarters usually attracts hundreds of Oscar voters and their guests every weekend for free members’ screenings of movies that will be competing for the top awards.
In 2020, though, it’s not an option to invite people to movie screenings in Los Angeles (or in New York, where they Academy also held screenings). But while the pandemic has killed those popular events, which were often followed by Q&As by filmmakers and actors, the Academy is still showing contending movies to its members as the Oscar race approaches.
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The difference is that the Academy Screening Room, where films are now showcased, exists online rather than in a physical theater — and while those weekend screenings were free to studios who only needed to provide a print of the film and talent for the Q&As, the online platform costs $12,500 per movie.
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As of the middle of this week, 81 films are available to members in the Best Picture screening room, from major awards contenders like “The Trial of the Chicago 7” and “Da 5 Bloods” to documentaries, animated features, critics’ favorites and small indies. That means the Academy has taken in more than $1 million so far ($1,012,500, to be exact), with the potential of more than doubling that total by the time Oscar season kicks into overdrive in early 2021.
Additional members’ screening rooms are available for films in the documentary, animated feature and international categories, with eligible films placed in those areas free of charge. But they are accessible only to members in the Documentary Branch, or members who volunteer to vote in the animation and international categories. So if a studio wants its film available to all members, it must also opt to pay the $12.5K to be in the Best Picture screening room.
Additional money will come in through the virtual versions of those post-screening Q&As, because studios also have the option of participating in the “Scene at the Academy” program. That service, which is expected to launch on the AMPAS members website after Thanksgiving, charges an additional $5,000 to upload video featurettes, no more than 20 minutes in length, that include interviews or break down specific scenes.
Some of these videos may also be made available to the public through the Academy’s digital and social platforms, according to the AMPAS submission guidelines.
Of the 81 films that paid for spots in the Academy Screening Room, more than 25% are from Netflix, which looks to be the major awards player in a year in which theatrical exhibition has been largely impossible. Netflix has six of the 16 documentaries in the screening room, one of the five animated features and 14 of the 60 narrative features, for a total of 21 films. IFC and IFC Midnight are second, with 10 films between them. Focus and Universal each have four, while Amazon has three.
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Many of the films that seem likely to become the year’s biggest Oscar contenders have yet to be added to the screening room; those include Searchlight’s “Nomadland,” Universal’s “News of the World,” Sony Classics’ “The Father,” Amazon’s “One Night in Miami,” A24’s “Minari” and Netflix’s “Mank” and “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.”
(The full list of movies currently available in the Academy Screening Room is below, but new titles are added constantly.)
The Academy began charging for access to a members screening portal in 2019, while it was still holding free screenings in its physical theaters. It is not the first awards body to do so: The Television Academy charges a sliding scale to host Emmy contenders on its site, depending on how many episodes are submitted and how many different peer groups have access to the program. (Third-party organizations that host awards screenings, including TheWrap and other media companies, also charge for those screenings.)
According to the Academy’s 2020-2021 screening room guidelines, the room is open to “feature films under consideration for Best Picture and the other General Entry categories.” The guidelines also require the submitting party to provide an “unembellished,” 300-character synopsis of the film (i.e., just the facts, no flowery language or quotes from reviews) and a movie poster “without quotes, laurels or credits.”
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Entries can take place until Jan. 15,. 2021 in the general entry categories, but the deadline is Dec. 1 in the animated feature, documentary feature, international feature film and shorts categories.
The $12,500 includes an invisible Academy Screening Room watermark and an “extensive QC (quality-control) review” by the AMPAS technical team; for an additional $5,000, the Academy will add forensic watermarking.
These films are currently in the Academy Screening Room. Additional films are in the free screening rooms for the Best Animated Feature, Best Documentary Feature and Best International Feature Film categories.
“All In: The Fight for Democracy” (documentary)
“All Together Now”
“The Artist’s Wife”
“Athlete A” (documentary)
“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”
“The Boys in the Band”
“Crip Camp” (documentary)
“Da 5 Bloods”
“The Devil All the Time”
“Dick Johnson Is Dead” (documentary)
“Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga”
“The Fight” (documentary)
“The 40-Year-Old Version”
“The Half of It”
“The High Note”
“How to Build a Girl”
“The Human Factor” (documentary)
“I Am Greta” (documentary)
“I’m Thinking of Ending Things”
“I’m Your Woman”
“The Invisible Man”
“Jingle Jangle – A Christmas Mystery”
“John Lewis: Good Trouble” (documentary)
“The King of Staten Island”
“Miss Americana” (documentary)
“Never Rarely Sometimes Always”
“No. 7 Cherry Lane” (animated)
“The Old Guard”
“On the Record” (documentary)
“The One and Only Ivan”
“The Other Lamb”
“Over the Moon” (animated)
“The Personal History of David Copperfield”
“Rebuilding Paradise” (documentary)
“The Social Dilemma” (documentary)
“Stars and Strife” (documentary)
“The Trial of the Chicago 7”
“The Trip to Greece”
“Trolls World Tour” (animated)
“The True History of the Kelly Gang”
“Waiting for the Barbarians”
“The Way Back”
“Welcome to Chechnya” (documentary)
“The Willoughbys” (animated)
Steve Pond has been writing about film, music, pop culture and the entertainment industry for more than 40 years. He has served as TheWrap’s awards editor and executive editor, awards since joining the company in 2009. Steve began his career writing about music for the Los Angeles Times, where he remained a contributor for more than 15 years, and Rolling Stone, where he was West Coast Music Editor and wrote 16 cover stories. He moved into film coverage with a weekly column in the Washington Post and became a contributing writer at Premiere magazine, where he became the first journalist to have all access to the Academy Awards show and rehearsals. He has also written for the New York Times, Movieline, the DGA Quarterly, GQ, Playboy, the Christian Science Monitor, USA Today, New York, the Christian Science Monitor, Live! magazine and many others. He is the author of the Los Angeles Times bestseller “The Big Show: High Times and Dirty Dealings Backstage at the Academy Awards” (Faber and Faber, 2005). He has also written “Elvis in Hollywood” (New American Library, 1990) and contributed to books that include “Cash,” “The Rolling Stone Reader,” U2: The Rolling Stone Files,” “Bruce Springsteen: The Rolling Stone Files” and “The Rolling Stone Interviews: The 1980s.” He was the co-managing editor of the syndicated TV news program “The Industry News” and the creative consultant for the A&E series “The Inside Track With Graham Nash.” He has won L.A. Press Club awards for stories in TheWrap, the Los Angeles Times and Playboy, and was nominated for a National Magazine Award for a story in Premiere.