Oscars organisers decide against rule changes to restrict streaming films

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Director Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma won three Oscars for Netflix’s Roma this year

Film streaming services could see continued awards success after the body behind the Oscars voted down calls to tighten its submission process.

Figures including Steven Spielberg have said films that are given only brief cinema runs shouldn’t be nominated.

Films are currently eligible if they are shown in one LA cinema for a week.

But, two months after Netflix’s Roma won three Oscars, the governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences decided against any changes.

Spielberg is a governor of the Academy but wasn’t at the meeting where the potential changes were discussed on Tuesday. He told the New York Times he wanted the cinema experience “to remain relevant in our culture”.

Netflix has previously said it should be easier for people who can’t get to the cinema to see films.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the Academy decided that movies will remain eligible if they are released in at least one Los Angeles cinema for at least a week before or at the same time as they are made available to stream.

Academy president John Bailey said: “We support the theatrical experience as integral to the art of motion pictures, and this weighed heavily in our discussions.

“Our rules currently require theatrical exhibition, and also allow for a broad selection of films to be submitted for Oscars consideration.”

Noting “profound changes” in the film industry, Mr Bailey added that the board would “continue discussions with our members about these issues”.

In March, the US Justice Department wrote a letter warning the Academy that changes to eligibility rules – which might freeze out competition form streaming services – might violate antitrust laws.

And earlier this month, Oscar-winning actress Dame Helen Mirren gave Netflix short shrift at an event for cinema exhibitors in Las Vegas.

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Spielberg has been a previous critic of the eligibility rules

Last year, Spielberg said: “I don’t believe that films that are just given token qualifications in a couple of theatres for less than a week should qualify for the Academy Award nomination.”

In a new statement to the New York Times, he said: “I want people to find their entertainment in any form or fashion that suits them. Big screen, small screen – what really matters to me is a great story and everyone should have access to great stories.

“However, I feel people need to have the opportunity to leave the safe and familiar of their lives and go to a place where they can sit in the company of others and have a shared experience.”

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Netflix’s wins at the Oscars

  • 2019 Roma – best director, best foreign language film, best cinematography
  • 2019 Period. End of Sentence – best documentary short subject
  • 2018 Icarus – best documentary feature
  • 2017 The White Helmets, best documentary short subject

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The other big decision made by the Academy governors was to change the title of the foreign language film category to international feature film.

“We have noted that the reference to ‘foreign’ is outdated within the global film-making community,” said Larry Karaszewski and Diane Weyermann from the Academy’s international feature film committee.

The name change does not change eligibility rules that say the film should be made outside the US with mainly non-English dialogue.

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