by Dante Benedetti, opinion editor
Here is a little known fact: COVID-19 has changed a lot of things. One thing I miss most about life without COVID is going to a movie theater. Movie theaters in Sonoma County are still closed due to restrictions imposed by the county health department, and I can’t think of the last time I sat in one. Just as gathering restrictions led to closing of the theaters, the closing of the theaters have had their consequences as well, such as people losing jobs and theaters suffering economically. However, something else came to my mind while watching old Oscar-winning movies on my grandparents’ VHS player: What about film awards?
For those of you who don’t know, film award ceremonies, such as the Academy Awards, where the prize given is known as an Oscar, rely heavily on movie theaters. So heavily in fact that a movie is not eligible under their normal rules for nomination if it is not shown for at least seven days in a theater before being released online or elsewhere. However, this means that streaming companies such as Netflix and Amazon Prime that produce original films are not eligible for awards unless their film receives a theatrical release before it is available on the steaming service. Netflix has steadily experimented with this and ended up with an astounding 24 nominations and two wins at the 2020 Academy Awards.
But COVID. Where the Oscars and similar award ceremonies such as the BAFTAs—British Academy Film Awards—helped level the playing field between rising streaming companies and movie theaters, COVID changed that all around. Now that theaters have closed, movies have to be streamed if they want to see an audience, and that would mean a loss of eligibility.
Thankfully, the Academy, in an effort to correct for this and stick by their undying stance that seeing a movie in a theater is the only way to fully experience its magic, has decided to change their event’s date and eligibility period. The ceremony will take place on April 25 instead of Feb. 28, and the consideration period for the best Picture Award was changed from Dec. 31 to Feb. 28, according to The New York Times. Other prestigious award ceremonies such as the BAFTAs and the Golden Globes changed their dates as well, according to the BBC and Rolling Stone respectively, in accordance with the Academy Awards, which is the culmination of the awards season. In addition, if a movie already streamed instead of waiting to be released in theaters, it can still have a chance at nomination according to The Verge, just as long as it was previously planned to be released theatrically.
Essentially, this means that if a studio’s movie was scheduled to be shown in theaters, but restrictions prevented it from doing so, it can still be nominated. It will be certainly interesting to see if these changes made will cause nominations to be of the caliber of past years. The Academy has made clear that these changes are intended to be temporary, and they will return to original rules as soon as this is over. However, at this point it is very hard to see that anything will return to what it once was. On the bright side, it will be interesting to see if this is a new era for filmmaking and maybe unique films will begin to arise.