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Academy squeezing out Apple TV+ movies with new Oscar rules

The cast of 'CODA' at the Oscars, as posted to Twitter by Tim Cook

Rules that can impact the ability for Apple TV+ movies to be entered into the Academy Awards have been formalized, in a move to make it harder for streaming services to qualify and win a Best Picture Oscar.

Apple has achieved considerable success at the Academy Awards, with multiple wins including Best Picture for "Coda" in 2022. However, rule changes that were floated earlier in the year that could make it tougher for films by streaming services to be included have now been codified by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Under current rules, a qualifying run is for a one-week theatrical release in one of six U.S. cities. From the 97th Academy Awards for films released in 2024, the rules will change.

For a start, there has to be the initial qualifying run of one week in one of six cities, but then it has to be followed by an expanded theatrical run of seven days in ten of the top 50 U.S. markets no later than 45 days after the initial release.

For late-in-the-year films with expansions after January 10, 2025, distributors are required to submit their release plans for verification by the Academy. Those release plans must also include a planned expanded theatrical run to be completed by January 24, 2025.

In the case of non-U.S. territory releases, they can count towards two of the 10 required markets. The qualifying non-U.S. markets include the top 15 international markets, as well as the home territory of the film itself.

"As we do every year, we have been reviewing and assessing our theatrical eligibility requirements for the Oscars," said Academy CEO Bill Kramer and Academy President Janet Yang. "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 artform in a theatrical setting."

The rule changes only apply to the Best Picture award, with eligibility for individual disciplines remaining unchanged.

The rule structure, and the commentary of the Academy CEO, doesn't really impact traditional film studios that rely on theatrical releases instead of straight-to-streaming releases. Though Apple does already implement theatrical releases for its movies, it could make such release programs more expensive or tougher to produce than at present.

It may also be an issue for streaming service viewership, as there would be an incentive to encourage watching via a theater to justify the cost and distribution of the film. This would mean fewer views for the film on streaming services themselves.