Docsider reminds us that Tuesday, September 2 is the deadline for submitting short or feature-length documentaries for Academy Awards consideration — that is, if your film has met the requirements for a one-week theatrical screening in LA and Manhattan.
In light of how filmmaking and film distribution is evolving, I’m wondering if the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences rules will always and forever include this requirement for a theatrical screening. Marc Rabinowitz suggests documentaries should be allowed to qualify based on festival play or award wins. That’s not a bad idea. But what about narrative features? Digital technology continues to develop, and audiences are increasingly introduced to films that debut, not in the traditional model of theatrical screenings, but on alternative distribution platforms like web streaming and downloads, not to mention the plethora of straight-to-DVD offerings.
Will these new forms of screenings ever reach a mass critical enough to compete with theatrical screenings? And if so, would that be enough of a shift to cause the AMPAS to ease, if not eliminate, the rule of required theatrical screenings? Without the use of a crystal ball, it’s impossible to say. It will be interesting to see how, or if, the AMPAS will react in the future to the continued evolution of the art and science of making and delivering motion pictures.
Update: In the meantime, documentary filmmakers have been scrambling to meet the theatrical screening requirements, without publicity or marketing the films to audiences, who apparently are scratching their heads about a slew of films they’ve never heard of suddenly appearing in theaters.