How Does a Movie Qualify for a Best Picture Academy Award?
It’s not enough that you release the finest feature film in a given year; in order to qualify for the Best Picture Oscar, you’ll have to meet a good number of Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences-ordained demands, particularly in regard to the distribution of your movie.
1. A MOVIE MUST BE FEATURE-LENGTH
The minimum runtime for a feature-length film is 40 minutes. That said, the shortest movie to ever win the Best Picture Oscar was the 90-minute Marty.
2. A MOVIE MUST RUN IN LOS ANGELES FOR A WEEK
A film can release all over the country, but if it doesn’t spend at least seven consecutive days in a commercial motion picture theater in Los Angeles County, it doesn’t make the cut.
3. AND THAT WEEK MUST LAND IN THE YEAR BEFORE ITS RESPECTIVE OSCAR CEREMONY
A film will only be eligible for the Academy Awards competition immediately following the calendar year in which its Los Angeles run takes place. Said run can begin any time between January 1 and December 31.
4. A MOVIE MUST NOT BROADCAST IN NON-THEATRICAL FORMAT BEFORE RELEASING IN L.A.
Here’s one that caused a bit of trouble during the Academy’s assessment of eligibility for films released in 2014 (specifically The Babadook). A film cannot release on television, on DVD, on Video on demand/Pay-per-view, or via legal release on the Internet prior to its qualifying Los Angeles County run.
5. BUT A MOVIE MAY RELEASE IN OTHER THEATERS BEFORE RELEASING IN L.A.
In fact, there’s some leeway here. A film can release anytime in the calendar year prior to the calendar year in consideration for a given Academy Awards competition, so long as its venue is a commercial motion picture theater, and no other form of release is permitted through its eventual qualifying week in Los Angeles.
6. FOREIGN FILMS HAVE ADDITIONAL FLEXIBILITY
On top of the allowances permitted to domestically released movies, as described above, films first released outside of the United States may actually release on TV, DVD, VOD/PPV, etc., so long as no such release permeates the U.S. (legitimately).
7. FESTIVAL RELEASES ARE ALSO OKAY
A movie’s inclusion in a film festival lineup doesn’t have much bearing on its Academy Award eligibility when it comes to the Best Picture race. It will, however, prove substantial in the contention of short features and documentary shorts, wherein a film can usurp an otherwise disqualifying lack of commercial run if it has won a prize at a qualifying competitive festival.
8. ENGLISH SUBTITLES MUST BE INCLUDED IN ALL FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILMS
Despite the general complicity with this rule, only nine foreign language movies have ever been nominated for Best Picture: Grand Illusion (French), Z (French), The Emigrants (Swedish) Cries and Whispers (Swedish), Il Postino (Italian), Life Is Beautiful (Italian), Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Mandarin), Letters from Iwo Jima (Japanese), and Amour (French). Not a one of them has won.
9. THERE ARE HIGHLY TECHNICAL REQUIREMENTS REGARDING A MOVIE’S VISUAL AND AUDIO FORMAT
Finally, a movie must meet the following technical standards if it is to submit for candidacy in an Academy Award competition:
Images must project on 35mm or 70mm film, or via digital format in 24 or 48 frames per second with a minimum projector resolution of 2048 by 1080 pixels. Screen images must conform to the ST 428-1:2006 D-Cinema Distribution Master (DCDM) format for standard cinematic distribution display. If compressed images are utilized, they must conform to the JPEG 2000/ISO/IEC 15444-1 format.
Audio data broadcast in stereo format must configure at three channels of sound: right, left, and center. Data will meet the format of industry standards for audio transmission, ST 428-2:2006 D-Cinema Distribution Master for Audio Characteristics, and ST 428-3:2006 D-Cinema Distribution Master for Audio Channel Mapping and Channel Labeling.
And as for the representatives of the films being nominated…
10. NOMINATED PARTIES MUST BE CREDITED AS “PRODUCER”
This is a highly specific regulation. A party’s name must be accompanied by a “Producer” or “Produced by” credit displayed onscreen during the film. Credits including “executive producer,” “associate producer,” “line producer,” and others of the like do not count!
11. ONLY THREE PRODUCERS ON A FILM WILL BE NOMINATED FOR A BEST PICTURE OSCAR
If there are more than three producers credited on a film, the three with the most significant contribution to the movie’s production will be deemed eligible. The Academy has the final say in which three earn this distinction.
12. BUT THEY WILL MAKE AN EXCEPTION FOR CERTAIN PRODUCER PARTNERSHIPS
Two producers may submit for nomination as a paired nominee if they share an established professional partnership that has been active for the past five years or more and they have partnered on the production of two or more films in the past.