Academy makes changes in rules for Oscars because of coronavirus pandemic

(L-R) Laura Dern, winner of the Actress in a Supporting Role award for "Marriage Story," and Renée Zellweger, winner of the Actress in a Leading Role award for "Judy," statuette detail, pose in the press room during the 92nd Annual Academy Awards at (Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic via Getty Images)

The motion picture academy announced on Tuesday that films that debut on a streaming or video-on-demand service due to theater closures resulting from the coronavirus pandemic will be eligible to compete in the best picture, general entry and specialty categories.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences noted that films typically must be shown in a commercial motion picture theater in Los Angeles County for a theatrical qualifying run of at least seven consecutive days with at least three screenings a day, but all movie theaters were closed March 16 as a result of the county's "Safer at Home" order.

"The Academy firmly believes there is no greater way to experience the magic of movies than to see them in a theater. Our commitment to that is unchanged and unwavering," Academy President David Rubin and CEO Dawn Hudson said in a joint statement.

"Nonetheless, the historically tragic COVID-19 pandemic necessitates this temporary exception to our awards eligibility rules. The Academy supports our members and colleagues during this time of uncertainty. We recognize the importance of their work being seen and also celebrated, especially now, when audiences appreciate movies more than ever."

The change allows films that had a previously planned theatrical release to qualify if they are made available on the secure Academy Screening Room member-only site within 60 days of the film's streaming or video-on-demand release and if they meet all other eligibility requirements.

The rules exemption will no longer apply when theaters re-open, but the Academy said it will expand the number of qualifying theaters to include venues in New York City, the Bay Area, Chicago, Miami and Atlanta.

Film festivals that have been affected by the pandemic can provide films online through a transactional pay wall or password-protected entry, which will not affect the titles' eligibility for future Oscars qualification, according to the Academy.

Rules and eligibility requirements are subject to change based on national guidelines, state-mandated government orders and Academy-determined best practices, according to the Academy.

The 93rd Oscars awards ceremony is scheduled for Feb. 28 next year.

In other developments, the Academy announced that:

-- it's the final year DVD screeners will be allowed to be distributed as part of the Academy's "sustainability effort," with access to the Academy Screening Room to continue to be made available for all eligible resources.

-- the two sound categories -- Sound Mixing and Sound Editing -- have been combined into one award for best achievement in sound.

-- a minimum of 60% of music must be original for a score to be eligible in the Music (Original Score) category, with that number increasing to a minimum of 80% for sequels and franchise films.

-- all eligible Academy members will be invited to participate in the preliminary round of voting for the International Feature Film category, and film submissions will be made available for the first time through the Academy Screening Room streaming platform for members who opt to participate.