Meet the Academy Screening Room's Newest Power Player of the Oscar Season

Meet the Academy Screening Room's Newest Power Player of the Oscar Season ...

People couldnt stop talking about Cate Blanchett in Todd Fields' TAR or Sarah Polleys Women Talking. However, one of the most surprising sources of buzz wasnt a film at all: Everyone had an opinion about the Academy's screening room, the world's most-curated streaming site that isn't available by subscription.

Academy members are more acquainted with streaming Oscar contenders at home, which implies things are about to get really complicated. This season, figuring out how to engage voters who can see their options like a Netflix queue will be one of the biggest challenges.

Any Oscar-winning film also contends with the awards corridor, a narrow period in which too many films fight for a theatrical release slot that will best capture the audience's and voters' attention. Imagine a major streamer on which scheduling is a siloed free-for-all: Everyone has backend access, everyone is looking for their ideal moment, and the audience is composed solely of people who will decide if your film wins an Oscar.

After the epidemic, the Academy established a screening room for specialty categories in 2016 and later expanded it as a sustainable practice to encourage people to distribute DVD mailers. It's possible that distributors will continue to distribute films, even if their guilds are closed. (Academy members may still receive DVDs from their guilds.) This might give a big-screen advantage to major-studio releases like Disney's Wakanda Forever and Avatar: The Way of Water or even A24s Everything All At

Many studios havent decided when they'll add films to the screening room, but they're waiting to see if their films sell out in theaters. Submission requirements mean some films, such as international titles, will make quiet entrances onto the member site prior to going wide on other streaming platforms. For the most part, representatives for films already predestined for at-home viewing, like Netflixs Bardo, are highlighting the films' large theatrical windows.


Drive My Car won best international film this year, as well as nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay. Its also a major component of the Academy's increasing recognition of foreign language films.

Not everything depends on the screening room. At a press conference last month, new Academy president Bill Kramer acknowledged that the Academy is investing more time in ensuring that members participate in in-person screenings.

Kramer said that we want to restore member screenings in a bigger way. They were not done for quite a while due to COVID, so there's been a slow build to bring them back as part of our much bigger intention to reengage and engage members on a much deeper level. That's a big part of that. Very soon youre going to see a return to member screenings that feel much more robust.

For a film like TAR, strong screenings will be required. It's a three-hour film, with an hour before the plot begins, which requires immersion. At home, the film may leave viewers vulnerable to distraction; in a theater, it's amazing.


The eternal question is what these carefully crafted films look like on Academy member TVs. The answer might be, Great! However, a widescreen film like Women Talking might be a challenge for its heavily saturated color palette (IndieWires)

The screening room is open to all distributors willing to pay the fee (last year, the cost to upload a film was $12,500; this year, it is $20,000), but it's not a straightforward transition. After years of debate over whether Academy members see films on screens or on screeners, distributors have finally accepted the notion that all titles will be digitally presented.

During the height of the epidemic, Christopher Nolan refused to allow Warner Bros. to make Tenet available in 2020 for any digital distribution, including the portal, or even the Oscar ceremony.

An Academy voter told IndieWires Anne Thompson that they never even connected to the portal in the same year. They said I can't get Apple or HBO Max on my Panasonic, despite the fact that I subscribe to HBO. Anyway, I've gone through hell on this one. You can't get on the [Academy screening] portal until you have Apple or Roku. I have never used the portal.

This article was written by Dana Harris-Bridson.