BAFTA has laid out new, temporary eligibility requirements for the upcoming 2021 edition of the annual Film Awards.
The new rules, which come less than 24 hours after BAFTA moved the awards by two months in line with the Oscars, will be reviewed at the end of July, once a clearer picture emerges for U.K. cinemas. Theaters, which closed the week of March 16, are expected to reopen on July 4, and Cineworld confirmed today that its U.K. screens will be back in operation for July 10.
Under the new BAFTA eligibility requirements, titles that had been theatrically released when cinemas closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, and consequently had their release period curtailed, will be eligible regardless of the number of qualifying screenings they had.
Meanwhile, films whose confirmed theatrical release date, as determined by the Film Distributors’ Association, has fallen during the three-month cinema lockdown will be eligible if their release changes to an approved commercial VOD platform. These titles can be released at any time during the 2020–21 eligibility period, which has yet to be determined and will be announced only in the fall.
Films that were intended for theatrical release during the cinema lockdown, but without a confirmed and published release date, will be eligible if they release on an approved commercial VOD platform during lockdown. After lockdown, on a date determined by BAFTA and once cinemas reopen, these titles will only be eligible if they are given a theatrical release.
The titles qualifying via release on an approved commercial VOD platform must be available for a minimum of 30 days to U.K. audiences.
All remaining titles, apart from the VOD exceptions outlined above, must be released theatrically within the eligibility period in order to qualify, on a date to be determined by BAFTA. All titles released theatrically for the rest of the eligibility period will have a lower qualifying threshold to meet: a minimum of one screening per day for seven days, in aggregate.
All titles must also be made available to BAFTA voting members on the BAFTA View viewing portal as soon as possible after the date of release and within 60 days of release — theatrical or online — for a minimum of 30 consecutive days. All releases, whether theatrical or on VOD, must be released within the Film Awards’ 2020-21 eligibility period.
The opening date of the first round of voting will also be announced in the fall, alongside the new eligibility period for the Film Awards. For context, the period for this year’s awards ran from Jan. 1, 2019 to Jan. 31, 2020, meaning films were given a 13-month window.
“We have pushed back by two months to give all films the best possible chance to be released and considered properly,” said Marc Samuelson, chair of the BAFTA film committee. “As cinemas gradually re-open we know that the major releases will dominate screens.
“Relaxing the scale of theatrical release required, including releases on VOD in some cases, and pushing back the date of the Awards should help the smaller, independent, documentary, foreign language and particularly the British films to be seen in good time for EE British Academy Film Awards in 2021,” continued Samuelson. “The date of the 2021 Awards has to be set now to allow distributors to make plans, but the current Awards Review is considering all aspects of the Awards, including the date from 2022, and our relationship to other awards ceremonies.”
On Monday, merely an hour after the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences shifted the 2021 Oscars by two months to April 25, the British Academy followed suit, moving the BAFTAs to April 11. The BAFTAs are seen as a bellwether to the Oscars.
The 2021 edition of the BAFTAs are also likely to see some major changes, pending the findings of an Awards Review that was set up following the lack of diversity in the 2020 awards nominations. The Review is being led personally by new British Academy chair Krish Majumdar, the first person of color to hold the post in the organization’s history.
The BAFTA TV awards were pushed back from May to July 31 and will take place as a closed-studio, socially-distanced show, with nominees invited to accept their awards virtually.
Manori Ravindran contributed to this report.