Like all of Hollywood, the coronavirus quarantine has thrown the Oscars into tumult. For years, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has seen itself as the defender of the theatrical experience, and has been loath to give up its rule mandating that films must play for a week in a Los Angeles theater if they want to be eligible for a nomination. But now all the theaters are closed, and California governor Gavin Newsom says it will be “months” before they reopen. What’s an awards body to do?

On Tuesday, we got our answer, as the Oscars decided to put aside its qualms and open this year’s field to movies that debuted on a streaming platform or on demand. After emphasizing for years the primacy of theatrical releases, the Academy had its hand forced by the uncertain length of the shutdown: Either change the rules to accommodate digital releases, or risk an Oscars where only two and a half months of films were eligible. As much as I would have loved to hear the words “Best Picture Nominee Birds of Prey,” the former was the better option.

However, the Oscars being Thee Oscars, not every streaming project will be eligible. To be nominated, movies would still need to have had a scheduled theatrical release before the world turned upside down. So no The Last Dance and no Bad Education (despite the fact that it played last year’s TIFF). But films that previously hovered in a zone of uncertainty, like Never Rarely Sometimes Always and Promising Young Woman, have now received confirmation that they will indeed be able to compete. Justin Timberlake can breathe easy, too, as Trolls World Tour’s VOD release has not prevented “The Other Side” from becoming the early front-runner for Best Original Song.

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