The new record eclipses the totals of four wins each for the ceremonies held in 2017 and 2019. Of course, there is a large asterisk next to the new record, after the decision by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to do away with the traditional requirement of a theatrical release. In a typical year, even films destined for streaming must qualify by having at least a week in theaters. AMPAS has not yet indicated if the requirement will return next year.
The record was set nearly barely an hour into the night when Netflix took Best Animated Short for If Anything Happens I Love You. In the Live Action Short category, Netflix also prevailed with Two Distant Strangers. The streaming giant had earlier gotten on the board with two Oscars for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and then picked up Best Documentary with My Octopus Teacher and a pair of craft honors for Mank.
Amazon Prime won for Sound and Film Editing for Sound of Metal.
With theaters forced to close for almost all of 2020 in New York, Los Angeles and London due to the coronavirus, and only recently opening their doors, streaming has become the pandemic norm. Beyond Netflix and Amazon, newer outlets also made their presence felt. Apple TV+, which launched in November 2019, earned nominations for Greyhound and Wolfwalkers, but did not convert those into wins. Hulu, which has been in the streaming game since 2007, also broke ground with a Best Actress nomination for Andra Day for The United States vs. Billie Holiday. Frances McDormand won in that category for her leading turn in Nomadland.
Netflix, whose first nomination came in 2013, led this year’s field with 36 overall nominations, including 10 for Mank, most of any single film in the running. This year’s total haul of nominations eclipsed the 24 Netflix got last year, but it won in just two categories. In 2019, it netted 15 nominations from a crop that included Roma.
The first year films distributed by a streaming service officially entered the Oscar winners circle was 2017. Amazon Prime took home three wins from seven nominations for Manchester by the Sea and The Salesman. Netflix captured Best Documentary Short Subject that year with The White Helmets.
This year’s math got pretty fuzzy due to Covid-19 in terms of the streaming tally. Disney, for instance, opted to release a handful of films on its streaming service, Disney+. Those titles included multiple Oscar nominee Soul, a winner tonight for Best Animated Feature, and a theatrical release in certain parts of the world. Warner Bros also put Judas and the Black Messiah (a winner tonight) and other new releases on WarnerMedia streaming service HBO Max at the same time they hit theaters.
While history will record the Soul and Judas as studio nominees, streaming was how most voters and audiences experienced them. Hulu, through its ownership by Disney and output deals, wound up a primary conduit for Nomadland, Collective and a number of other films. In 2017, Manchester by the Sea arrived at Oscar night with more than $46 million in box office revenue, but it would not stream until May of that year. Times have changed.
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