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The Academy Will Do Anything They Can to Exclude Streaming Movies From the Oscars, Won’t They?

A woman's hand holds the Best Picture envelope

According to Variety, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is considering postponing the 2021 Oscars. So far nothing has been decided but multiple sources told the outlet that a postponement is being discussed and it’s not at all surprising. It appears to be just one more step (albeit a huge one) in the Academy’s long history snobbish exclusion of streaming platforms.

In order to qualify for the Oscars, a movie (even a streaming site’s original) has to have a seven-day theatrical run in Los Angeles but the Academy just recently announced some new, more relaxed rules. “The Academy firmly believes there is no greater way to experience the magic of movies than to see them in a theater. Our commitment to that is unchanged and unwavering. Nonetheless, the historically tragic COVID-19 pandemic necessitates this temporary exception to our awards eligibility rules,” the organization wrote in a statement.

In addition to the growing number of awards-worthy movies existing as Netflix/Amazon/etc. originals, more and more films are being sold to those sites now that theaters have been closed. So the Academy is allowing those films to enter into contention, with the understanding that once theaters reopen, they have to have a theatrical run. (The Academy has added some additional metropolitan areas for where that can take place, beyond just LA.)

That announcement of the new rules came just a couple of weeks ago. So what changed to prompt a reported debate over postponing the awards ceremony entirely? Is it concerns over the risk posed by a physical ceremony? The fact that so many films are now pushing their release date to 2021? Or is the Academy just not willing to have an awards season based on celebrating streaming services to such an extreme degree? It would be easier to believe this isn’t about cinematic snobbery if that attitude wasn’t already so heavily established.

Over the last year or so, Netflix has started to be able to make some cracks in cinema’s elitist establishment but we’re still seeing pushback. When Roma took home a number of number of Oscars in 2019, there was some major backlash from studios and prominent filmmakers, including Steven Spielberg, who basically said you’re not a real director if your movies don’t play in theaters. We’re also not all that far removed from when now-Oscar winner Bong Joon-ho’s brilliant Okja was booed at the Cannes Film Festival for daring to bear the Netflix logo. The stigma is still strong.

Last year, the Academy gave nominations and awards to a small handful of movies from streaming platforms (Marriage Story, The Two Popes, The Irishman, American Factory) but because of the shuttering of movie theaters and the major shift to streaming releases, this was shaping up to be the year the Academy would truly have to recognize internet platforms as genuine players in the landscape of modern cinema. And it’s disappointing, though not surprising, that they’re still resisting.

(via Variety, image: Matt Petit – Handout/A.M.P.A.S. via Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) has a lot of opinions about a lot of things. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri with her husband Brock Wilbur and too many cats.