AMC Theatres, the largest domestic circuit, will not hold its Oscar Best Picture marathon this year. The annual event traditionally includes all non-Netflix nominees, shown over a 24-hour period for one price (higher than usual admission, varying by region).
In response to our inquiry, IndieWire received this response from an AMC representative: “For the past 14 years, the continued support of our Best Picture Showcase fanbase has helped AMC bring together cinephiles around the country to celebrate the previous year in movies. In thinking about our plans for 2021, it was quickly obvious that the traditional Best Picture Showcase event is not feasible in the current environment. We’re already looking forward to the 2022 Oscars when we can all gather again for a full day (or two!) of the best in theatrical cinema.”
AMC created the program in 2007, when it showed Best Picture nominees “The Departed,” “The Queen,” “Little Miss Sunshine,” “Babel,” and “Letters From Iwo Jima.” Similar programs also became a staple at other circuits. Regal, the second biggest exhibitor, is currently closed at all domestic locations. Cinemark did not respond to a request for comment.
It’s not hard to speculate on why AMC would demur. Like most exhibitors, AMC operates most of its locations with reduced hours, so an all-night screening would be a bigger burden than usual. The program on the promise of large crowds, which is not possible with restricted seating. Cleaning theaters between shows is a priority, and that’s very difficult to achieve when ticket holders stay on for multiple shows.
In AMC’s decision to cancel, a silver lining is it saves the embarrassment of not including four Netflix titles that could be among the 10 Best Picture contenders: “Mank,” “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” “Da Five Bloods,” and “The Trial of the Chicago 7.” So far the exhibitor has remained firm in its policy of not including Netflix nominees, but this year that would risk turning the event into a half-marathon. With nearly all contenders having home playdates, calling out Netflix also could seem less defensible.
Finally, while Oscar titles always skew to the specialized, this year the titles are even smaller than usual. It’s hard to imagine the 50-and-over set eager to see “Nomadland” or “Mirari” in any theater this year, let alone at 1 AM.