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BAFTA Best Film Contenders Will Require Expanded Theatrical Release From 2025, Aligning With Oscars

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Contenders in the best film category at the BAFTAs will require an expanded theatrical release from the 2025 awards.

From 2025, films must be theatrically exhibited publicly for the first time to a paying audience on at least 50 commercial screens in the U.K. for at least seven days across 50 sites at the widest point of release or the equivalent of at least 350 screenings. Currently the rules state that films must have a minimum of 10 screenings per day for seven days or 70 in total.

“The update ensures BAFTA is in step with release patterns in the U.K. and that British cinema audiences have access to best film contenders on the big screen,” BAFTA said in a statement. The rule change is being implemented after BAFTA consulted with U.K. distributors, heads of U.K. studios, exhibitors, streamers, programmers, stakeholders, industry representative bodies and British production funding bodies.

The rules align with the expanded theatrical exhibition rules for the Oscars, which were revealed in June this year. At the time BAFTA had told Variety that the org was “having conversations internally and are considering it” as to whether they would follow the Oscars.

The expanded theatrical exhibition requirements should allay the concerns of critics of the existing BAFTA criteria who had highlighted to Variety the lack of guardrails in place to ensure that awards-qualifying screenings aren’t just limited to London. A senior exhibition source had provided the example of Netflix’s best film BAFTA win for “All Quiet on the Western Front,” where the film had opened in a limited number of cinemas in the U.K. with the majority of them being in London. Data seen by Variety at the time suggested the film only screened an average of one show per day, across two weeks, before it launched on Netflix on Oct. 28, 2022.

The film is believed to have eventually played in more than 200 individual cinemas across the U.K. and Ireland, though those screenings largely took place following the Jan. 19, 2023, BAFTA nominations, when it’s common for films to re-enter theaters for select screenings.

Anna Higgs, chair of BAFTA’s film committee, said: “Our expanded theatrical screenings requirement will ensure film fans up and down the country have more opportunities to see best film contenders on the big screen, so they can join in the discussion and awards excitement along with BAFTA voters. Developed in consultation with a wide range of industry stakeholders, we’re pleased to confirm this update ahead of the eligibility window for the 2025 BAFTAs opening on Jan. 1, 2024.”