The Academy Board of Governors met Friday and voted to approve a long list of rule changes for the 96th Oscars to be held on March 10, 2024. These revamped rules cover new demands on countries submitting films for the Best International Feature Oscar, increased promo campaign restrictions, and General Entry eligible release dates. And finally, inclusion standards for Best Picture eligibility, announced back in 2020, will now be enforced. (You can see the full list of updated regulations here.)
As for changing the number of theaters and cities that movies must book to be eligible for Oscars, that conversation has been tabled, sources say, for the next set of rules changes for the 97th Oscars, which will take place in 2025. That makes sense, as there are complicated issues regarding big studio wide releases versus less-financed indie distribution.
In a surprise move, the Academy has also changed the International Feature Film category rules. They now stipulate that selection committees around the world, in every country that submits a movie for Oscar consideration, must comprise at least 50 percent filmmakers (artists and/or craftspeople).
That means that the Academy, in a move designed to improve the quality of the foreign-language films submitted each year, is telling each country, from Brazil and Iran to France and Timbuktu — including government-run selection committees — how to pick their Oscar films. This could decrease the political bias in some of these selections, but if Iran doesn’t want to submit a banned filmmaker, this new rule is unlikely to make a difference.
Winning the International Oscar means a great deal to countries around the world. So many will likely comply. But who makes the final call on what to submit? That is the question.
Finally, after an initial announcement in 2020, the Academy’s Inclusion Standards requirements are kicking in. In order to be eligible for the Best Picture category, these requirements will take effect for the 96th Oscars. There’s a new form to fill out when submitting a film for Best Picture consideration: the Representation and Inclusion Entry Form (RAISE). Each movie has to meet the requirements of two of the four Inclusion Standards. (More information on the Inclusion Standards is here.)
In the wake of the controversy surrounding the “To Leslie” grassroots Oscar campaign for eventual Best Actress nominee Andrea Riseborough — which included multiple private screenings and parties and social media postings — the Board of Governors has tightened up the rules for Oscar campaigning.
The Academy is trying to clarify the campaign regulations for private gatherings. The Board of Governors is permitting private events that include Academy members, but they are not classified as “For Your Consideration” (FYC) events. This means that movie distributors and producers are prohibited to pay for, set up, or endorse them.
As far as Academy members’ use of direct email and public social media to promote their favorites, the Academy considers over the line any discussion of Oscar voting strategy, decisions, or preferences, as well as eligibility requirements such as inclusion standards. (They may be anticipating some blowback.) Also not allowed — it was always not allowed — participating in the increasingly popular anonymous ballot stories.
The Academy is establishing ways to enforce these new rules by setting up a process for reporting campaign violations or concerns (email@example.com) as well as a review process for any distributors or individuals associated with any violations. The Academy will apply penalties.
The Academy is drastically cutting back on what had been an unlimited number of hosted screenings a movie could have. In recent years, Oscar campaigners have leaned on stars and A-list filmmakers to host screenings. Now these will be limited during the pre-Oscar nomination period to a maximum of four. There will be no “hosted” screenings after the nominations are announced.
On the other hand, Q & As and panels, which presumably offer useful information, are fair game and campaigners can set as many as they want, before and after the nominations. (Q&As used to be kept back to four during the post-nominations season.)
The Academy Governors also made clear that they themselves are not allowed to participate in any Oscar campaigns, either by hosting screenings, Q&As, or panels, unless they happen to be directly associated with a given film or are asked to participate in an official Academy event.
When Academy president Janet Yang was criticized for posting an endorsement of Oscar contender Michelle Yeoh during Oscar season, she deleted her tweets. The Academy is making it clear that no such public promos are allowed, from the day the shortlists are announced until final voting ends. The Academy is also loosening up the rules around using “shortlisted” in FYC mailings. It’s now permitted.
Like Animated Feature, in the Live Action Short Film category, the Academy is allowing all Academy members who opt in to participate in voting.
The Academy is banning the sending of any physical marketing materials, from postcards to screening schedules, in the interest of sustainability. Campaigners can still use digital means of communication to reach Academy members, but only via an Academy-approved mailing house. And in the interest of fairness, the Academy’s digital portal, the Academy Screening Room, will be more accessible to indies that cost less than $10 million via a discounted rate.
The Academy Governors also approved the establishment of two submission deadlines for General Entry categories. A feature film must have a qualifying theatrical release date between January 1, 2023, and December 31, 2023. Submission deadlines are September 15, 2023 (for films released January 1 to June 30) and November 15, 2023 (for films released July 1 to December 31). Several other film categories will also have two submission deadlines based on the date of qualification.
Submission deadlines and additional key dates are listed below.
Tuesday, August 15, 2023: First submission deadline for Animated Short Film, Documentary Feature Film, Documentary Short Film and Live Action Short Film categories
Friday, September 15, 2023: First submission deadline for Animated Feature Film and General Entry categories
Monday, October 2, 2023: Final submission deadline for Documentary Feature Film and International Feature Film categories
Monday, October 16, 2023: Final submission deadline for Animated Short Film, Documentary Short Film and Live Action Short Film categories
Wednesday, November 1, 2023: Final submission deadline for Music (Original Score) and Music (Original Song) categories
Wednesday, November 15, 2023: Final submission deadline for Animated Feature Film and General Entry categories
Saturday, January 13, 2024: Visual Effects nominating screening (bake-off)
Sunday, January 14, 2024: Makeup and Hairstyling nominating screening and Sound nominating screening (bake-offs)