Oscars Change Rules for Documentary Films

Feature-length documentary films will now require a one-week theatrical release in both New York and Los Angeles, before August 31, in order to be eligible to be nominated for an Academy Award.

Although the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is claiming its revised rules for documentary eligibility are “to encourage theatrical exhibition of documentaries with awards hopes”, critics are displeased with the changes.

A controversy is brewing over a change to Oscar’s feature documentary rules.

Because of the change — which required a one-week qualifying run in New York by August 31 — one of the year’s most buzzed-about documentaries, the Israeli animated film “Waltz With Bashir,” won’t be eligible for consideration. A host of executives and festival veterans are calling on the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to revise the rule.

“I can’t understand why the Academy is making it even more difficult for documentaries by saying you need some kind of shadow release,” New York Film Festival programmer Richard Pena said. “I don’t see how this policy helps the greater good of cinema.”

The Academy’s goal — as it has tinkered with its rules for documentary eligibility — has been to encourage theatrical exhibition of documentaries with awards hopes.

Under the previous rules, that meant a doc had to be screened for one week in either Los Angeles or New York, while also logging 14 three-day bookings in at least 10 states.

For the upcoming 81st Annual Academy Awards, the rule was simplified: This year, contending docs are simply required to screen for one week in both Los Angeles County and Manhattan by August 31.

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