2025 Oscar Rule Changes Mainly Focus on New Theatrical Requirements

The Academy’s Board of Governors has released the official awards rules and campaign promotional regulations for the 97th Academy Awards, to be held on March 2, 2025. 

While the biggest change is the expansion of the theatrical requirements for Best Picture, there are other highlights of note. That includes animated feature films submitted for Best International Feature Film now being able to also submit for Best Animated Feature Film if eligibility requirements outlined for both categories are met. There’s also a new eligibility period for the Best International Feature Film — November 1, 2023, to September 30, 2024 — and Best Original Score now allowing three composers to receive individual statuettes if, in rare circumstances, they all contributed fully to the score. Plus, the screenplay categories now require a final shooting script to be part of submissions and a handful of overall name changes and/or clarifications for some of the awards The Academy hands out at the separate Governors Awards and Scientific and Technical Awards ceremonies. 

Similarly, The Academy also updated and clarified formatting and language in the campaign promotional regulations for the 97th Oscars. Much of what was instated last year in wake of the “To Leslie” campaign scandal still stands, with the campaign promotional regulations specifying 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. (See the full list of rules and regulations for the 97th Academy Awards here.)

To elaborate on the theatrical requirement changes, the easiest thing to first highlight is that drive-in theaters will no longer be a means of qualification—one of the last vestiges of adaptations made during the peak of COVID-19.

Once again, for Academy Awards consideration, a feature film must have a qualifying theatrical release between January 1 and December 31 of this year, with Dallas/Fort Worth being added to the list of qualifying U.S. cities a film can open in for a one-week run in theaters (the others are Los Angeles County; the City of New York; the Bay Area; Chicago, Illinois; Miami, Florida; and Atlanta, Georgia).

After that one-week initial qualifying run in at least one of the aforementioned cities, a film then has to now meet the following additional theatrical standards for Best Picture eligibility:

  • Expanded theatrical run of seven days, consecutive or nonconsecutive, in 10 of the top 50 U.S. markets, no later than 45 days after the initial release in 2024.
  • For late-in-the-year films with expansions after January 10, 2025, distributors must submit release plans to the Academy for verification.
  • 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.
  • Non-U.S. territory releases can count towards two of the 10 markets.
  • Qualifying non-U.S. markets include the top 15 international theatrical markets plus the home territory for the film.

While those theatrical changes may seem like a bit of a pain for Netflix, which has so far been resistant toward robust theatrical runs for its films, the true concern is that the new rules make it even harder for lower-budget films from smaller distributors to have a chance at Best Picture. Using “To Leslie” as an example, the Oscar-nominated film only played in six theaters after its SXSW breakout.

The news of rule and regulation changes also comes with another reminder after the 2025 Oscars date announcement to submit a RAISE form proving one’s film has met at least two out of four of the Academy’s inclusion standards in order to be eligible for Best Picture. Distributors and/or producing teams should submit for PGA Mark Certification or awards determination as well no later than the date of the film’s first commercial screening in its qualifying run.

See the latest submission deadlines and additional key dates for the 97th Academy Awards below:

Thursday, August 15, 2024: First submission deadline for Animated Short Film, Documentary Feature Film, Documentary Short Film and Live Action Short Film categories

Thursday, September 12, 2024: First submission deadline for General Entry categories, Animated Feature Film, Best Picture and RAISE form

Wednesday, October 2, 2024: Submission deadline for International Feature Film

Thursday, October 10, 2024: Final submission deadline for Animated Short Film, Documentary Short Film and Live Action Short Film categories

Thursday, October 17, 2024: Final submission deadline for Documentary Feature Film

Friday, November 1, 2024: Submission deadline for Music (Original Score) and Music (Original Song) categories

Thursday, November 14, 2024: Final submission deadline for General Entry categories, Animated Feature Film, Best Picture and RAISE form

Saturday, January 11, 2025: Makeup and Hairstyling, Sound and Visual Effects nominating screenings (bake-offs)

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