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Studios Support Academy’s Plan to Replace DVD Screeners With Streaming Service

Studios are signing on to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ plans to eventually eliminate DVD screeners for Oscar voters.

Academy president David Rubin recently told IndieWire that the Academy will make online screeners available for most eligible films in time for the 2020 awards season, though DVDs will also likely be provided for the next several years.

“All the studios have opted in,” to digital screeners, one film exec told Variety. “We just haven’t gotten all the details yet.”

Distributors will be charged $12,500 per film, according to a source.

Voters are already able to stream documentaries, animated films and shorts on the Academy’s viewing site. Narrative features will be available via the Academy screening app that will be released next year.

Rubin said the Academy wants to do away with DVDs for environmental purposes while also providing a savings for the studios. For now, the studios’ costs have actually increased because they now have the Academy fee in addition to the traditional DVD distribution. “It’s going to cost more until voters get used to streaming,” another source said.

Costs to send DVD screeners can run as high as $35 per unit depending on how they’re watermarked and mailed. Sending out DVDs for one title could cost a studio more than $1 million, since studios may have to send up to 30,000 DVDs not only to Academy voters but also to members of the various guilds and critic groups.

The Academy hasn’t adopted a rule ending the use of DVDs, but sources expect that will happen at some point. “It’s not going to happen too soon because voters still want their DVDs, but the goal is to get rid of them,” the source said. “The Academy does want the guilds to follow suit.”

Another Academy voter believes that the organization has a long way to go before streaming overtakes DVDs. “It’s a pain and it’s another thing of tech you don’t need to add to your life,” he said, adding that AMPAS members still relish receiving the DVDs. “You tell them they can only get it by streaming and they’re going to say, ‘Seriously?’” he said.

DVDs of foreign language films will still be sent to voters because most of those movies don’t have North American distributors to pay the fees.

The Television Academy announced in January that it was completely eliminating DVD screeners for Primetime Emmy voters starting in 2020. Meanwhile, SAG and other guilds have utilized digital screeners for several years.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for the Academy to take an important first step to move the industry forward in an area of great concern for both our partners and members, reducing costs and delivering a tremendous positive impact for the environment,” said Television Academy chairman Frank Scherma said at the time of the announcement. “Television has an ever-expanding role as the world’s most innovative and popular entertainment medium, and this decision embraces the evolution of viewing practices and preferences of the Academy’s 25,000 members and the industry at large.”

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