The Oscars seek to boost theaters with new rule for streaming films to be eligible for nominations

In the changing landscape of movies and content, the Academy is strategizing ways to revive interest in seeing movies at theaters.

The movies have always been at odds with new mediums, especially television. With the invention of the television and its ability to bring entertainment to the masses at home, movies began to revolutionize their format in order to re-attract audiences back to theaters. Films became bigger and wider with 70mm formats. The first trend of 3D movies attempted to capture the audience’s wonder. However, streaming is a whole different monster where it has been seen by many as the definitive movie theater killer. The Academy took a while to come around to considering streaming films to be nominated for awards. Last year saw Netflix films like All Quiet on the Western Front beat out theatrical releases in a couple of categories.

Puck is now reporting on the Academy’s newest strategy to help raise interest in theater-going. Rather than outright snubbing films that stream, there is a new proposal from Academy CEO Bill Kramer that films now need to play in theaters in 15 or 20 of the top 50 markets in the U.S. to be eligible for nominations. This rule will need to be approved by the 54-member board of governors at its meeting in late April to really take effect. Netflix has been experimenting with distributing content in theaters when it released Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery in a limited early preview a month before it was set to stream on the platform. The movie’s box office take for just a week’s play was quite significant, and Rian Johnson pleaded with Netflix to keep the movie in theaters for another week.

The Academy already has a rule in play that says a film must play theatrically for at least a week in one of six markets: L.A., New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Miami, or Atlanta. This is how Tommy Wiseau tried to get his disaster film, The Room, to be eligible for an Oscar. There is also a stipulation that “a streamer can put the film online day-and-date, but it can’t stream it before it appears in a theater.” One of the biggest hurdles for lower-budgeted movies is that giant blockbuster films, mostly from the House of Mouse, tend to hog the screens at multiplexes. And as the pandemic saw the closing of theaters across the country, it seems to be more beneficial for theaters to play the moneymakers to keep afloat.

In an interesting new perspective, at the premiere of the new Ben Affleck movie Air, which is distributed by Amazon Studios, Jen Salke, the head of the studio, sees theaters as lucrative opportunities to transfer ticket sales to streaming numbers. Streamers view theaters as a crucial first window to market their films for notoriety in an effort to attract an audience for its eventual online premiere. It will be interesting to see how Creed III performs now that it is available on digital starting today after being released just earlier this month and is even still playing in theaters. Cocaine Bear is another quick theatrical to digital release that happened this month. So it remains to be seen how all these films fare in an uncertain time of experimenting with distribution. It also remains to be seen how this all turns out due to the Academy’s attempt. However, not every movie is looking to win an Oscar, so the business strategies will definitely vary from film to film.

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