Oscars to Require ‘Expanded Theatrical Run’ to Qualify for Best Picture Beginning in 2025

The Academy’s Board of Governors has approved new theatrical release requirements to be eligible for the best picture Oscar beginning at the 2025 ceremony.

In addition to the one-week qualifying run in one of the six U.S. markets, beginning with movies released in 2024, a film must meet additional areas regarding its theatrical release to be nominated and win the highly coveted best picture statuette.

They include:

  • Expanded theatrical run of seven days, consecutive or non-consecutive, in 10 of the top 50 U.S. markets, no later than 45 days after the initial release in 2024.
  • For late-in-the-year films with expansions after Jan. 10, 2025, distributors must submit release plans to the Academy for verification.
  • Release plans for late-in-the-year films must include a planned expanded theatrical run, as described above, to be completed no later than Jan. 24, 2025.
  • Non-U.S. territory releases can count towards two of the 10 markets.
  • Qualifying non-U.S. markets include the top 15 international theatrical markets plus the home territory for the film.

These standards resulted from numerous conversations with distributors of varying sizes, in addition to studying historical data. The Academy has been vocal about its belief that a healthy theatrical environment is vital to the success of Hollywood.

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Oscars temporarily suspended eligibility rules for theatrical releases due to shutdowns.

These changes do not affect any film contending in the 2023 calendar year and won’t go into effect until Jan. 1. As with all rules and changes, the Board assesses and meets annually to discuss any practical changes to its eligibility and processes.

To be clear, this is only for movies to qualify for the best picture category. Films will be eligible in various categories, such as directing, acting and technical achievements, without meeting this standard. This is the same rule regarding movies and studios that don’t meet the diversity and inclusion standards in their first year of effect.

In a joint statement, Academy CEO Bill Kramer and Academy President Janet Yang said: “As we do every year, we have been reviewing and assessing our theatrical eligibility requirements for the Oscars. In support of our mission to celebrate and honor the arts and sciences of moviemaking, it is our hope that this expanded theatrical footprint will increase the visibility of films worldwide and encourage audiences to experience our art form in a theatrical setting. Based on many conversations with industry partners, we feel that this evolution benefits film artists and movie lovers alike.”

This change will likely affect streamers such as Apple TV+, which became the first to win the best picture statuette with “CODA” (2021). Apple, Netflix and Amazon have not typically done expansive releases for their awards contenders.

Last year, Netflix’s sequel “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” was estimated to have grossed between $12 and $13 million from about 700 theaters over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend (Netflix doesn’t report any official gross figures for their movies). The streamer’s widest theatrical release involved top-tier chains like AMC and Regal. And despite its impressive figures for Rian Johnson’s whodunit, it was pulled after one week.

Earlier this year, Amazon Studios made an unprecedented move by giving Ben Affleck’s drama “Air” a domestic release on over 3,500 screens. Apple has already partnered with Paramount Pictures and Sony Pictures to handle the theatrical runs for two upcoming contenders — Martin Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon” with Leonardo DiCaprio and Ridley Scott’s “Napoleon” with Joaquin Phoenix.

The streamers must have seen this move coming, since in March Apple announced a $1 billion per year investment in theatrically-targeted films, and Amazon committed to 12 to 15 theatrical releases per year.

The industry must also monitor how this affects the arthouse studios such as Sony Pictures Classics, Searchlight Pictures, Neon and the reigning best picture champion A24 (“Everything Everywhere All at Once”). Committing to 10 of the top 50 U.S. markets could affect their bottom lines, especially with box office numbers still trying to put many in the black.

The change, as any that has been announced lately, will have fierce supporters and vocal critics chiming in. Actor Richard Dreyfuss spoke about the Aperture 2024 requirements and “being told he can’t play a Black man.”

We suspect the Academy wants what any cinephile wants… simply to keep (and save) the movies.

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