Oscars Toughen Theatrical Requirements to Qualify for Best Picture

Effective in 2024, contending films will be required to play in 10 of the top 50 U.S. markets in addition to normal qualifying runs

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The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has significantly raised the benchmarks a film must meet in order to be eligible for a Best Picture nomination, the organization behind the Oscars announced Wednesday.

Under the new rules, which go into effect in 2024, a movie will need to have a one-week theatrical qualifying run in one of six U.S. cities, followed by additional seven-day runs in 10 of the top 50 U.S. markets in order to be eligible for Best Picture at the 97th Oscars. That ceremony will take place in early 2025 for films released in 2024. Films released in 2023 are not affected by the rules changes.

Current rules call for a one-week run in Los Angeles, New York City, Chicago, Miami, Atlanta or the San Francisco Bay Area, a requirement retained by the new standards. Under the new rules, those additional theatrical runs must take place no later than 45 days after the film’s initial release, and can be consecutive or non-consecutive.

A seven-day theatrical release in a foreign country can be used in place of two of the 10 required markets, as long as that country is one of the top 15 non-U.S. markets or is the home country of the film in question.

The newly announced rules apply only to the Best Picture category at the Oscars. It’s not known if further rule changes affecting other categories will be enacted.

The new rules will not disqualify films that premiere on a streaming service on the same day as their initial theatrical run, but they will require companies like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video to distribute their films to theaters in more cities and for longer than the current regulations require.

If a film is released late in the year, distributors must submit release plans that show the additional release to be completed no later than Jan. 24, 2025.

In a press release announcing the new regulations, Academy CEO Bill Kramer and President Janet Yang said, “In support of our mission to celebrate and honor the arts and sciences of moviemaking, it is our hope that this expanded theatrical footprint will increase the visibility of films worldwide and encourage audiences to experience our artform in a theatrical setting.  Based on many conversations with industry partners, we feel that this evolution benefits film artists and movie lovers alike.”

The theatrical standards are the latest product of a discussion that has been happening within the Academy for years, as theatrical exhibition has declined, companies like Netflix, Amazon and Apple have gotten into the movie business and studios like Disney and Warner Bros. have used their streaming platforms to distribute films. During the pandemic, the Oscars did away with their theatrical requirement completely, but it was brought back for the 95th Oscars amid consistent rumors that the Academy was flirting with rules that would make it very difficult for streamers to compete for Academy Awards.

The new rules do not do that, with the additional 10-market, 7-day expansion something that streamers like Netflix and Amazon can do and have done in the past. The expanded theatrical standards also do not require companies to release their films’ theatrical grosses, which Netflix, for one, does not do.