The Academy will not implement any rule changes to impact Oscar eligibility for Netflix original films. This past awards season, the streaming giant had a sizable presence thanks to Alfonso Cuarón's Roma, which was nominated for ten Oscars and won three (including Best Director). Many believed it was a leading contender for the Academy's top prize, which made some longtime industry professionals feel uneasy. Roma bypassed the traditional theatrical model and was available to watch from home shortly after a limited run, illustrating how times have changed.
In the immediate aftermath of the 91st Academy Awards, iconic director Steven Spielberg was at the forefront of the pushback against Netflix, advocating for Oscar eligibility rule changes. This was misinterpreted by many as Spielberg expressing an intense dislike for streaming, but he doesn't hate Netflix original movies. He merely wanted to iron out a clear definition for what constitutes a theatrical window. At least in the Academy's eyes, it's the same as it was before.
According to THR, the Academy board of governors did not pass any Oscar eligibility rule changes. In order to qualify for the awards, films still need to play theatrically for at least one week in Los Angeles County. The Academy did, however, make a few noteworthy changes to their procedures. Best Foreign Language Film has been renamed Best International Feature Film, the Best Makeup & Hairstyling category will be expanded from three movies to five, and the outdated policy stipulating at least eight qualified films had to be released in order for there to be a Best Animated Feature category has been eliminated.
It's likely for the best the eligibility rules stayed the same. Any alterations would have affected all films vying for Oscars, not just those from Netflix. For instance, Adam McKay's Vice was in theaters for exactly one week during 2018 (opening on Christmas Day) and was nominated for eight Oscars at the 91st Academy Awards. If the Academy instituted a requirement for longer theatrical windows within a given year, then movies coming out in November and December potentially could be impacted - which isn't entirely fair. Some people might have been bothered by Roma's dominant run, but Netflix obliged all the guidelines and didn't bend any rules to get their way. It would have been odd if they were punished after being law-abiding participants.
This is a huge victory for Netflix, which hopes to be a permanent fixture in the awards conversation. It's no coincidence they aired a TV spot for Martin Scorsese's The Irishman during February's Oscars broadcast. Given the pedigree of the crime drama, many are expecting it to be in the discussion for several categories. Netflix also has other intriguing projects, like Spike Lee's Da 5 Bloods and Ron Howard's Hillbilly Elegy coming through the pipeline, so for now it's a relief to them they can continue to operate as normal.