When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences made a historic modification with the assumption that movie theaters would eventually reopen in the fall. With theaters in the two biggest markets in the country, Los Angeles and New York, nowhere close to happening, the Board of Governors has updated and clarified how a film can qualify for Best Picture for the 93rd Oscars. And its great news for the nation’s thriving Drive-In industry.

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AMPAS has added an addendum for two methods for films to qualify for Best Picture and general entry categories until the end of the extended awards year, February 28, 2021.

  1. Films which are intended for theatrical release, but are initially made available through commercial streaming, VOD service or other broadcast may qualify by making the film available on the secure Academy Screening Room member site within 60 days of the film’s streaming/VOD release or broadcast.
  2. Films may qualify with a traditional theatrical release, completing a seven-day run in one of six qualifying cities (Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco/Bay Area, Chicago, Miami, Atlanta), screening at least three times daily, with at least one screening between 6 pm and 10 pm daily. Additionally, drive-in theaters in these cities will now qualify as a commercial venue, however, the screening requirement will be adjusted from three times daily to once daily. Films that have a theatrical release are not required to submit to the Academy Screening Room within 60 days—It is optional.

On the surface, this may not seem like significant news, but it’s a signal to studios and distributors that moving forward AMPAS member screenings at Drive-Ins should not be a problem. Considering that ABC/Disney have successfully pulled them off for Emmy season and studios such as Amazon, Apple and A24 have pulled them off for one-off events, Drive-Ins may become a staple of the 2020-2021 awards season. A big question, however, is whether studios will come to a solution for members in the New York area during the winter months.

The deadline to qualify for the 2021 Academy Awards is currently still set for Feb. 28, 2021.