Academy Updates 2020-21 Oscars Rules to Allow Drive-In Theaters

The Academy will allow Oscar-qualifying runs at both indoor and outdoor theaters in five cities besides Los Angeles.
Gold-dusted chocolate Oscar statues are pictured at the Governors Ball Press Preview for the 92nd Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre, Friday, Jan. 31, 2020, in Los Angeles. The Academy Awards will be held at the Dolby Theatre on Sunday, Feb. 9. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)
Gold-dusted chocolate Oscar statues ahead of the 92nd Academy Awards
Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has once again updated its rules for qualifying films for the upcoming 93rd Academy Awards. As hardtop theaters remain closed in Los Angeles, the Academy is not only allowing bookings to qualify at indoor cinemas in five other major cities including in New York, Chicago, the Bay Area, and Atlanta, but at drive-ins, which will be considered commercial venues. Also, the films only have to play for seven days to qualify.

The updated rules come after the Academy in April announced that movies that had “previously planned theatrical releases” can qualify for Oscars without the typical 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.”

Here’s the official word, as posted on the Academy’s website:

With the gradual re-opening of theaters, there are two methods of qualification for awards consideration in Best Picture and general entry categories through the remainder of the 93rd Academy Awards year (February 28, 2021):

1) Films which are intended for theatrical release, but are initially made available through commercial streaming, VOD service or other broadcast may qualify under these provisions:
• That the film be made available on the secure Academy Screening Room member site within 60 days of the film’s streaming/VOD release or broadcast;
• That it meets all other eligibility requirements


2) Films that open in theaters in at least one of the six qualifying U.S. cities, depending on theater availability, may qualify under these provisions:
• That the film completes a qualifying run of at least seven consecutive days in the same commercial venue, during which period screenings must occur at least three times daily, with at least one screening beginning between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. daily
• That it meets all other eligibility requirements
• Six qualifying U.S. cities include: Los Angeles County; City of New York [Five Boroughs]; the Bay Area [counties of San Francisco, Marin, Alameda, San Mateo and Contra Costa]; Chicago [Cook County, Illinois]; Miami [Miami-Dade County, Florida]; and Atlanta [Fulton County, Georgia].
• Drive-in theaters are included as a qualifying commercial venue in the above cities (must run for seven consecutive days with at least one screening daily)
• Academy Screening Room would be optional

The rule change comes as theaters have been allowed to reopen in many areas across the US. However, indoor theaters remain closed in New York City and Los Angeles, where many Academy voters live. And Regal Cinemas announced this week that it planned to temporarily shutter its 536 locations in the US, signaling that with few movies to show, movie theaters are far from out of the woods during the pandemic.

Drive-in theaters in Los Angeles County include the Vineland in the City of Industry, which has hosted numerous industry events during the pandemic.

The Oscars ceremony for the 2020-21 season is scheduled for April 25, 2021, an unusually late date due to the pandemic. The eligibility window includes films released between January 1, 2020 through February 28, 2021.

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