COVID-19 is speeding up change, especially for the Academy Awards.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced earlier this week that films that have never been released in theaters will be eligible to receive nominations for the first time ever.

Previously, the Academy required all films to have had a seven day theatrical run in a Los Angeles county commercial theater to have a chance at winning one of their prestigious awards.

This new exception is a response to movie theaters shuddering while stay-at-home and social distancing orders are put in place in California to fight the pandemic

HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 09: (L-R) Karen Rupert Toliver and Matthew A. Cherry accept the Animated Short Film award for ‘Hair Love’ onstage during the 92nd Annual Academy Awards at Dolby Theatre on February 09, 2020 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

This decision will democratize access for smaller streaming services without the capital and connection to place their offerings in theaters in Los Angeles County, but only briefly. The Academy revealed that the change is only temporary. As of now the exception will only extend to movies submitted in 2020, and it will be lifted as soon as the widespread opening of theaters begins.

“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,” said Academy President David Rubin and CEO Dawn Hudson in a joint statement. 

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“Nonetheless, the historically tragic COVID-19 pandemic necessitates this temporary exception to our awards eligibility rules,” they continued. 

Huge streaming services have been able to work within the restrictions by adding limited theatrical runs to their submissions. Last year, Netflix released Oscar frontrunners, including Marriage Story and The Irishman, in theaters before making them available to streaming subscribers shortly after they left theaters.

The 93rd annual Academy Awards are set for February 28, 2021.


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