From Friendo #5: There actually is something of a history of foreign/international “TV movies” being released as theatrical features in the U.S. and then going on to Oscar success. I did some research on this a few years ago so here goes.
Ingmar Bergman did this several times (i.e. SCENES FROM A MARRIAGE, FANNY AND ALEXANDER), where a made-for-Swedish-TV “series” was cut down into an internationally released “theatrical” feature. Stephen Frears’ MY BEAUTIFUL LAUNDRETTE was originally made for Channel 4 in the U.K., but was so acclaimed in its early festival appearances that it went on to garner a theatrical release even there (and, eventually, an Oscar nom for Best Original Screenplay). ENCHANTED APRIL was also made and released as a TV film in the UK but shown theatrically in other territories, and it wound up with three Oscar noms. And I’m sure there are more.
The catch, in all cases, is that these movies were released theatrically in the U.S. before they were shown on television or any other medium there (what happened internationally didn’t matter). The Academy has a longstanding rule about this. This year, the rule was supposed to be altered due to COVID. You were supposed to be able to qualify with a streaming-only release IF the movie in question was ORIGINALLY intended for theatrical release. The Academy then further modified those rules in October to state as follows:
“With the gradual re-opening of theaters, there are two methods of qualification for awards consideration in Best Picture and general entry categories through the remainder of the 93rd Academy Awards year (February 28, 2021):
“(1) Films which are intended for theatrical release, but are initially made available through commercial streaming, VOD service or other broadcast may qualify under these provisions; that the film be made available on the secure Academy Screening Room member site within 60 days of the film’s streaming/VOD release or broadcast; or that it meets all other eligibility requirements”
“(2) Films that open in theaters in at least one of the six qualifying U.S. cities, depending on theater availability, may qualify under these provisions; that the film completes a qualifying run of at least seven consecutive days in the same commercial venue, during which period screenings must occur at least three times daily, with at least one screening beginning between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. daily; that it meets all other eligibility requirements; Six qualifying U.S. cities include: Los Angeles County; City of New York [Five Boroughs]; the Bay Area [counties of San Francisco, Marin, Alameda, San Mateo and Contra Costa]; Chicago [Cook County, Illinois]; Miami [Miami-Dade County, Florida]; and Atlanta [Fulton County, Georgia]; Drive-in theaters are included as a qualifying commercial venue in the above cities; an Academy Screening Room would be optional.”
Given that Amazon never intended the Small Axe McQueen movies for theatrical release AND failed to do a qualifying run as described above prior to (or on the same day as) launching the movies online, I really don’t see how the cat can be put back in the bag at this point. But perhaps Clayton Davis understands these rules differently.”