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Oscars Will Allow VOD Releases to Qualify While Major Theaters Are Closed

The Academy announced it is combining the two sound categories and a slate of other changes for the 2021 Oscars.

An Oscar statue is pictured at the press preview for the 91st Academy Awards Governors Ball, in Los Angeles. The 91st Academy Awards will be held on Sunday, Feb. 24. at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles91st Academy Awards - Governors Ball Press Preview, Los Angeles, USA - 15 Feb 2019

Academy Awards

Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP/Shutterstock

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced a handful of category and rule changes that are going into effect for the 93rd Academy Awards, which remains scheduled for February 28, 2021. One of the major category changes is the decision to consolidate the categories of Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing into one category recognizing the best achievement in sound.

The Academy also announced that films that had “previously planned theatrical releases” can qualify for Oscars without a Los Angeles qualifying run, but the film “must be made available on the secure Academy Screening Room member-only streaming site within 60 days of the film’s streaming or VOD release.” This rule change is in effect until further notice.

The Academy will eventually issue a specific date when the rule of a qualifying theatrical run goes back into effect, but the Academy will “expand the number of qualifying theaters beyond Los Angeles County to include venues in additional U.S. metropolitan areas: the City of New York; the Bay Area; Chicago, Illinois; Miami, Florida; and Atlanta, Georgia.”

The Academy’s decision to combine the Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing categories into one category is hardly a surprise given reports in December 2019 that stated the organization was “favoring” such a change. A subcommittee found there was “substantial overlap” between the nominees and winners in both sound categories, with movies such as “The Bourne Ultimatum,” “The Hurt Locker,” “Inception,” “Hugo,” “Gravity,” “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “Dunkirk,” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” winning both Best Sound Mixing and Best Sound Editing in recent years. The 2020 Oscars happened to feature a split among the sound categories: “Ford v Ferrari” won Best Sound Editing and “1917” won Best Sound Mixing.

Governors for the sound branch of the Academy said in 2019 they were in favor of “taking the step of combining sound mixing and sound editing into a unified ‘best sound’ award’ that would nominate up to 2 supervising sound editors, 1 production sound mixer, and up to 3 rerecording mixers.” The governors added, “Everyone that has been part of the discussion so far feels that this change will give us more unity as a community and strengthen us as a branch.”

Other category changes include (via official Academy statement):

– In the Music (Original Score) category, for a score to be eligible, it must comprise a minimum of 60% original music. Additionally, for sequels and franchise films, a score must have a minimum of 80% new music.

– In a procedural change in the International Feature Film category, all eligible Academy members will now be invited to participate in the preliminary round of voting. For the first time, film submissions will be made available through the Academy Screening Room streaming platform to those members who opt-in. These members of the International Feature Film Preliminary Voting committee must meet a minimum viewing requirement in order to be eligible to vote in the category.

-As part of the Academy’s sustainability effort, the 93rd Awards season will be the final year DVD screeners will be allowed to be distributed; these mailings will be discontinued starting in 2021 for the 94th Academy Awards. Access to the Academy Screening Room will continue to be made available for all eligible releases. The distribution of physical music CDs, screenplays and hardcopy mailings, including but not limited to paper invites and screening schedules, will also be discontinued next year. Digital links to materials will be permitted.

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