Neon CEO Tom Quinn has addressed the debate around the new theatrical standards for Best Picture eligibility announced by Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences over the summer.
Talking on a panel on box office strategies at the Zurich summit on Saturday, the distributor and champion of the theatrical experience gave a surprising take on the new standards.
Under the new rules, which take effect for the 97th Academy Awards, theatrical release eligibility criteria for films put forward for Best Picture consideration will expand beyond the current one-week release in six U.S. qualifying cities.
As per Deadline’s report in June, the move was instigated by members of AMPAS’s Producers Branch, to bolster the org’s core mission of supporting films for the big screen and will impact streamers who have tended to enter films with the minimum release needed to qualify.
The expanded theatrical run comprises seven consecutive or non-consecutive days on release, 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, distributors must submit release plans, which then have to be completed no later than January 24.
Quinn, who chaperoned Korean director Bong Joon-Ho’s Parasite to Oscar glory in 2020, said he felt the streamers should be free to set their own release strategy.
“I don’t think that you should mandate a streamer to forcibly release a film across 500 screens because that’s what the Academy says – that I do not agree with. It’s their business. They should treat their films as they see fit,” Quinn said.
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The distributor said that the streamers should be obliged instead to report box office figures for contenders, if and when they decide to release them.
“Because what Best Picture winner sounds great when it has earned $100,000? There’s a potency to that inside of voter consideration, and I still think it matters,” said Quinn.
“Then everybody can do what they want and let the voters decide. But the over mandating is also something I don’t think works.”
Quinn was joined on the stage by Focus Features, President of Production & Acquisition Kiska Higgs and Robert Walak, Head of film & TV at Iconoclast.
The new Academy rules follow in the wake of a Apple’s Best Picture win for Coda in 2022, with the only the minimum theatrical release needed to qualify.
Quinn suggested Coda would have likely done well in cinemas if it had been given a wide release.
“It would have been a piece of counter programming over the summer. Ultimately crossover,” he said.
Regardless of his preference for Best Picture contenders to naturally have a wide release, Quinn said it was “hard to resist” Coda, which broke fresh ground with its deaf cast members and characters.
“There’s a live component to that film too, even inside of the streamers campaign, not just because Patrick Wachsberger was there ushering it along, but that’s a film wanted in the room.”
“It reminded me a lot of what it felt like seeing Bong Joon Ho come up on stage and speaking Korean and then having it translated. It was just a moment for us to recognize something other than the awards.”
The one-day Zurich Summit is an initiative of the Zurich Film Festival, organized in cooperation with CAA Media Finance.
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