Oscars 2025 Changes Rules, Special Awards, Campaign Protocols

As the film awards industrial complex reemerges from a brief hibernation following the 96th Oscars and begins thinking about the 97th, which will take place on March 2, 2025, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences‘ board of governors has announced updated awards rules and campaign promotional regulations — as well as changes to some of the special honors that are presented at the organization’s annual Governors Awards ceremony and its annual Scientific and Technical Awards ceremony.

Here is a brief overview of what’s changing…

The Academy is taking on a more prominent role in the fight to save movie theaters

Per usual, films will have to be released during the 2024 calendar year to be eligible — but the means by which they must be released will change slightly from recent years. As the pandemic continues to subside, drive-in theaters will no longer be a means of qualification for Oscars eligibility. Instead, films can only qualify by screening for one week in a brick-and-mortar theater in Los Angeles County, New York City, the Bay Area, Chicago, Atlanta or a newly added metropolitan area: Dallas-Fort Worth. (Why DFW, of all areas, was added to the mix, was not addressed.)

Then, per a board edict issued in June 2023 but only taking effect now, a film will have to meet the following additional theatrical standards — in addition to at least two of the four requirements of the Academy’s Representation and Inclusion Standards — in order to be eligible for the best picture Oscar: (1) Expanded theatrical run of seven days, consecutive or non-consecutive, in 10 of the top 50 U.S. markets, no later than 45 days after the initial release in 2024; (2) For late-in-the-year films with expansions after January 10, 2025, distributors must submit release plans to the Academy for verification; (3) Release plans for late-in-the-year films must include a planned expanded theatrical run, as described above, to be completed no later than January 24, 2025; (4) Non-U.S. territory releases can count towards two of the 10 markets; (5) Qualifying non-U.S. markets include the top 15 international theatrical markets plus the home territory for the film.

Kumbaya between the animated feature and international feature categories

Henceforth, animated feature films submitted by a foreign country for consideration in the best international feature film Oscar race will become eligible for consideration in the best animated feature film category, as well, provided eligibility requirements outlined for both categories are met. (A related note: The new eligibility period for the international feature film category is Nov. 1, 2023, to Sept. 30, 2024.)

Good news for composers

The best original score category will now release a shortlist of 20 titles, as opposed to 15. And, in another change that will surely be welcomed by composers, as many as three composers will now be eligible to receive individual statuettes for that award if it can be demonstrated that they all contributed fully to the score. (Previously, three composers were required to submit as a group.)

Writers must now show their work

To be considered for the best adapted screenplay or best original screenplay Oscars, writers will now be required to furnish a final shooting script. (How this will impact films with considerable improvisation, such as those directed by the likes of Mike Leigh, remains to be seen.)

Special awards are changing

The Academy’s Governors Awards ceremony — or at least some of the special honors that are sometimes presented during it — will look slightly different in the future.

The Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award, which is presented on occasion to a creative producer — or producing team — whose work reflects a consistently high quality of motion picture production, will no longer take the form of a bust of the eponymous late MGM production chief’s head, but will instead be an Oscar statuette like any other. (Thalberg’s widow Norma Shearer probably wouldn’t approve, but she died 41 years ago.)

Meanwhile, the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, which, since 1956, has also been presented on occasion, heretofore in recognition of an industry figure who — or organization that — has made “outstanding contributions to humanitarian causes,” will now be given to an industry figure or organization “the humanitarian efforts” of which “have brought credit to the industry by promoting human welfare and contributing to rectifying inequities.” (The people who object to the Academy’s Representation and Inclusion Standards are sure to have thoughts on the new language.)

Separately, two special honors presented at the Academy’s Scientific and Technical Awards have been renamed.

The Gordon E. Sawyer Award, which has been presented on occasion since 1981 to “an individual in the motion picture industry whose technological contributions have brought credit to the industry,” will now be known as the Scientific and Technical Lifetime Achievement Award. And the John A. Bonner Award, a medal of commendation presented on occasion since 1978 — and named after Bonner in 1997 — “in appreciation for outstanding service and dedication in upholding the high standards of the Academy,” has been renamed the Scientific and Technical Service Award.

One can only assume that these changes are a reflection of the fact that the names of Sawyer, a once-famous sound director who died in 1980, and Bonner, a once-famous sound engineer who died in 1996, are no longer widely remembered.

Due dates

Finally, the Academy announced the following submission deadlines and key dates:

Thursday, Aug. 15, 2024: First submission deadline for animated short film, documentary feature film, documentary short film and live-action short-film categories

Thursday, Sept. 12, 2024: First submission deadline for general entry categories, animated feature film, best picture and RAISE form

Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2024: Submission deadline for international feature film

Thursday, Oct. 10, 2024: Final submission deadline for animated short film, documentary short film and live-action short-film categories

Thursday, Oct. 17, 2024: Final submission deadline for documentary feature film.

Friday, Nov. 1, 2024: Submission deadline for music (original score) and music (original song) categories

Thursday, Nov. 14, 2024: Final submission deadline for general entry categories, animated feature film, best picture and RAISE form

Saturday, Jan. 11, 2025: makeup and hairstyling, sound and visual effects nominating screenings (bake-offs) The Academy also updated and clarified formatting and language in the campaign promotional regulations for the 97th Oscars. The campaign promotional regulations specify how motion picture companies and individuals directly associated with Oscars-eligible motion pictures may promote such motion pictures, achievements and performances to Academy members and how Academy members may promote Oscars-eligible motion pictures, achievements and performances.

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