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The British Academy of Film and Television Arts has unveiled changes to its rules for the film awards, including a relaxation of the rule governing the eligibility of films released on video-on-demand rather than theatrically. BAFTA has also confirmed key dates for the awards.

BAFTA has revised its rules on the eligibility of features in light of the increasing number of films that are being released on VOD rather than in theaters, Jim Bradshaw, BAFTA’s head of film, told Variety.

The BAFTA Film Committee, which is chaired by producer Pippa Harris, will now have the option to allow films to be entered that have received a VOD release rather than a “traditional” theatrical release. This will be decided on a “case by case” basis and will be considered as an exception to the rules, and will be at the discretion of the committee, Bradshaw said.

“This is to do with making sure that we continue to recognize the best in filmmaking and not penalize films, especially international content, because of how it is funded or who has picked it up in the U.K.,” Bradshaw said. “We don’t expect this to be a massive change, we don’t expect this to open the floodgates in terms of number of entries or anything like that, but it is just a response to [a conversation the committee has been having] … Distribution models are changing very, very rapidly, and we have to be open to looking at things that are not the norm and different to how distribution has been in the past.”

Bradshaw added that the Film Committee was “very clear that they want the primary distribution route to remain to be through cinemas, and want to be biased towards that and to support cinemas, and therefore the normal route to entry will be as it was last year: a theatrical release on 10 screens for at least a week, with a lower threshold for foreign-language [films] and documentaries.”

“But,” Bradshaw added, “we have to respond to the reality that — particularly for independent films and the non-British independent films coming into the U.K. — theatrical release is less common and digital distribution is becoming more and more the norm.”

The Film Committee, which includes producers Marc Samuelson and David Thompson, has ruled that only Producers Guild of America recognized producers will be eligible to be nominees in the best film category if the film has been previously submitted to the PGA. If the film hasn’t been submitted to the PGA, BAFTA’s previous rules on eligibility apply, which stipulates a maximum of three producers.

In the animation category, BAFTA has increased the number of nominations from three to five, if BAFTA’s Film Committee deems the quality of entries is high enough. Emma Baehr, BAFTA’s head of awards, said this was in response to a major increase in the number of animated films being given a theatrical release in the U.K. this year.

BAFTA has also decided to make the craft category optional, whereas in the past any film entered for best film also had to enter all the craft categories for which it was eligible. This will allow producers to avoid categories that are not relevant to their films.

In the shorts categories, BAFTA has stipulated that all rights must be cleared for theatrical and digital release at the time the films are entered. This is being done to allow BAFTA to give a theatrical and digital release to a packaged program of nominated shorts after the nominations are revealed.

As previously announced, the awards will take place on Feb. 12, and nominations will be announced on Jan. 10, and will be live streamed. Further dates are listed below.

KEY DATES FOR THE EE BRITISH ACADEMY FILM AWARDS
Oct. 21 – Entry deadline for Stage One submissions
Dec. 14 – Round One voting opens
Dec. 15 – Films released in the U.K. after Jan. 1, 2017 must be screened to BAFTA voters by this date to qualify
Jan. 3 – Round One voting closes (18:00 GMT)
Jan. 10 – Nominations announcement; Round Two voting opens
Feb. 8 – Round Two voting closes (18:00 GMT)
Feb. 10 – All entered films to open on general release to the public by this date
Feb. 12 – EE British Academy Film Awards