Sorry, Spielberg. Streaming movies are still eligible for the Oscars

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has approved the rules for next year’s Oscars, and despite calls from filmmakers like Steven Spielberg to ban movies that premiered on streaming services like Netflix from awards consideration, the Academy has confirmed that those films will still be allowed to compete for the film industry’s most prestigious awards in 2020.

“We support the theatrical experience as integral to the art of motion pictures, and this weighed heavily in our discussions,” John Bailey, the president of the Academy, said in a press release. “We plan to further study the profound changes occurring in our industry and continue discussions with our members about these issues.”

As before, films must play for seven days in a commercial theater in Los Angeles County in order to qualify for Academy Awards consideration, and at least three screenings must be available to the public via paid admission every day. That rule allows Netflix and other streaming services to book limited runs for their Oscar hopefuls, while simultaneously making them available online for wider viewing.

Previously, Spielberg claimed that movies designed to be watched on televisions and mobile devices might be high quality, but should be considered made-for-TV movies, not feature films. Spielberg’s remarks led to speculation that the famous director might attend the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences rule-setting governors’ meeting to make his case in person.

Ultimately, however, Spielberg, who is busy shooting a West Side Story remake, didn’t attend the meeting, and backtracked on his initial statements. Spielberg told the New York Times that he wants “people to find their entertainment in any form or fashion that suits them.” His main concern, he said, is “the survival of movie theaters. I want the theatrical experience to remain relevant in our culture.”

The debate about streaming services’ place at the Academy Awards began just a few weeks after Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma, which was distributed by Netflix, competed for 10 Oscars at 2019’s ceremony, ultimately winning three: Best Director, Best Cinematography, and Best Foreign Language Film.

Ironically, at least one of the Academy’s rule changes would have affected Roma had it been released in 2020: The Academy has decided to change the name of the Foreign Language Film category to International Feature Film. Other changes include more nominees for the Makeup and Hairstyling Oscar and looser nomination requirements for the Animated Feature and Short Film categories.

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