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Academy to implement diversity standards for Oscars eligibility, set best picture at 10 nominees

Kelly Lawler
USA TODAY

The Academy is making big changes to itself and the Oscars. 

On Friday, amid the national conversation about systemic racism sparked by the death of George Floyd, the Academy announced sweeping plans aimed at swiftly furthering its diversity and inclusion initiatives, including setting the best picture category at 10 nominees, rather than a fluctuating number, starting with the 2021 Oscars ceremony.

The changes are a new phase of the organization’s ongoing efforts, known as “Academy Aperture 2025,” to tackle issues of equity and diversity within the Academy and its gilded award show. Eligibility for those awards will soon include inclusion standards. The Academy is creating "a task force of industry leaders, appointed by David Rubin" which "will include governor and A2020 Committee chair DeVon Franklin, to develop and implement new representation and inclusion standards for Oscars eligibility by July 31, 2020," it said in a news release. 

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In addition to setting the best picture category at 10 nominees permanently, the Academy will make it easier for its voters to screen movies year-round, increasing the exposure of movies that don't premiere in a traditional "awards season" window. 

Internally, the organization also said it is tackling issues of race and diversity within its ranks, requiring board members and staff to take unconscious bias training, establishing an Office of Representation, Inclusion and Equity and setting term limits for governors. They will be allowed to serve on the board for a lifetime maximum of 12 years. The limits take effect with the 2020-2021 term. 

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Other elements of the initiative included setting up an Inclusion Advisory Committee for the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures and hosting forums for members and the public for "conversations about race, ethnicity, history, opportunity, and the art of filmmaking."

An Oscar statue stands inside the Governors Ball Press Preview for the 92nd Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre, Friday, Jan. 31, 2020, in Los Angeles. The Academy is announcing major changes to address diversity and inclusion.

“While the Academy has made strides, we know there is much more work to be done in order to ensure equitable opportunities across the board,” said Academy CEO Dawn Hudson. “The need to address this issue is urgent. To that end, we will amend – and continue to examine – our rules and procedures to ensure that all voices are heard and celebrated.”

Aperture 2025 is an ongoing in initiative that already includes grants to aspiring filmmakers, among other programs. 

The Oscars have long been criticized for a failure to represent diverse actors, directors and behind-the-camera artists in its winners and nominees, which has been called out using the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite. The organization has responded in the past by extending membership to wider groups of filmmakers over the past few years. At this year's ceremony, South Korean film "Parasite" became the first foreign-language film to win best picture, a milestone many saw as progress for the institution. However in that same night, Black British actress Cynthia Erivo was the lone person of color nominated across 20 acting categories.

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Earlier this year, the Academy announced changes to eligibility for the 2021 Oscars due to the coronavirus pandemic. Movies that premiered on digital streaming platforms and didn't receive a conventional release will be eligible for best picture and all various categories at the 93rd Academy Awards (planned for Feb. 28, 2021).

The new requirement is a change from a film's usual theatrical qualifying run of at least seven consecutive days, though one caveat is that streaming movies in consideration would had to have a previously planned theatrical release (such as the "Trolls" sequel and Judd Apatow's upcoming "The King of Staten Island"). Once theaters begin to open, the new rules exemption will no longer apply.

Contributing: Brian Truitt, Andrea Mandell