The Oscar's governing board is considering rules that will force Apple TV+ and Netflix to release more movies for longer runs in theaters — or they won't even be considered for Academy Awards.
Apple was the first streamer to win a Best Picture Oscar with 2022's "CODA," and then it followed that with a second Academy Award for its short film "The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse." Plus the company is reportedly increasing its movie budget to $1 billion annually, including the costs of having more theatrical releases.
It just may not be enough. According to Puck News, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) is privately considering revamping its entry rules.
Currently, to be eligible for consideration as Best Picture, a movie must be first shown in theaters, ahead of any streaming, and stay there for at least a week. However, streamers can put the film out online at the same time as playing in theaters — and it doesn't have to be all that many movie theaters.
At present, a film can be entered for Best Picture if it's had a week in any movie theaters in any one of six key markets. Thos are LA, New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Miami, or Atlanta.
If Puck News is correct, the new rules being considered by Academy CEO Bill Kramer, will require films to play in between 15 and 20 of the top 50 US markets.
Reportedly, the National Association of Theatre Owners has reassured the Academy that capacity in its establishments will not be a problem. You bet it won't: movie theaters are being hit badly by streaming.
Impact of the rumored rule change
The Academy has not commented, and it's reported that the rule change has yet to be voted on by its board of governors. But it's claimed that the move is to help theatres and not to hurt streamers.
Kramer and at least some governors believe that this move will help movie craft areas like sound and visual effects, that were made for theaters.
It will cost the streamers money, though, both in distribution costs and potentially in reduced viewing numbers on their services. The number of cinema goers seems unlikely to be high enough that it dents viewership, but a film that is received badly in theaters will be affected.
Netflix did have a limited theatrical release for Rian Johnson's "Glass Onion" movie, but it was short term — and it was part of the deal for getting the rights to the film.
Otherwise, Netflix has tended to shy away from theatrical releases. Yet at the same time, both Amazon and Apple have stepped up their theatrical runs, with Apple even re-releasing "CODA" into theaters to capitalize on its Oscar win.
At present, it's certain that streamers put films in theaters to ensure awards eligibility, but it's probable that they also see it as a significant advertising push.
Dramatically increasing the costs of distribution could change that. If the Academy's board votes to accept rules like this at its next meeting at the end of April, it's conceivable that Apple will become the sole streamer to ever win a Best Picture Oscar.