The Directors Guild of America has taken a dramatic stand to support theatrical releases via its awards-eligibility requirements. On June 22, the Directors Guild of America’s National Board unanimously approved a change to eligibility requirements for its top feature film award. According to a release, the decision was made “in recognition of the unique cultural importance of the theatrical experience to audiences and filmmakers alike.”
No more will day and date releases be eligible for the top DGA award, which will now honor “Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Theatrical Feature Film.”
Under the new rule, which will apply to the upcoming 72nd DGA Awards cycle, films released through other distribution platforms on the same day and date as they premiere in theaters will no longer be eligible for the top DGA award. Films were previously required to have a seven-day theatrical release. Now they cannot have any other type of distribution during that run.
These rules are tighter than the ones that govern Oscars; day-and-date releases have been Oscar eligible since 2012. This year, the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences considered changing that ruling to require an exclusive theatrical release before streaming availability, but ultimately backed off. The Academy requires only a one-week theatrical run for qualification.
However, it makes sense that the DGA would take a more militant stand. After all, the guild represents many film directors who ideally want their films seen in theaters. This rule change will require that streaming services like Netflix, Disney+, Amazon, or Apple (which recently declared its awards intentions) qualify a film ahead of streaming.
The DGA’s top award is considered an important win on the road to a Best Picture or Director Oscar. Last year, Alfonso Cuaron took home the DGA directing award for “Roma,” as he did at the Oscars. He would have been eligible last year, as Netflix opened the film in theaters for three weeks before it became available to stream, and kept it playing for months.
“The DGA proudly affirms that a first-run theatrical release is a distinctive element of our feature film award,” said DGA president Thomas Schlamme. “We celebrate the important role that theatrical cinema has played in bringing together audiences as they collectively experience films as the filmmakers intended them to be viewed. We also take great pride in recognizing all of the work created by our members through the many categories and formats that are part of the DGA Awards.”
On the other hand, the DGA National Board decided not to apply the new first-run theatrical release rule to the DGA First-Time Feature Film Award category.
Other than the new rule, all other feature-film eligibility requirements remain the same for the 72nd Annual DGA Awards. Full eligibility details for the 72nd Annual DGA Awards will be included in entry forms released later this summer. Following the 72nd Annual DGA Awards, the Guild will continue to review eligibility requirements and may make further adjustments as the industry continues to develop.