Most independent movie theaters are struggling to keep the doors open these days, and many are looking for the edge to draw in customers. Some are relying on technology to solve their problems; swapping out aging 35mm projectors for digital ones to comply with new and changing rules, others rent out their space for non-film events, which in some cases can lead to the theater being abandoned by their general customer base altogether. One thing that can help them stay in the game, and even more so if you’re a theater located in New York or Los Angeles where a week long run can also get a film reviewed by the New York or LA Times, is to get your theater accredited by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. To have an accredited theater means that films that show there, if they meet other stipulations, can be qualified for a shot at the coveted Oscar.
There are some fairly basic rules to film and theater eligibility. See them below (NOTE: These rules only apply to feature films. There are entirely separate guidelines to short films which will be discussed in a later article):
- The film needs to play for at 7 days straight in that theater.
- The theater needs to be open to the general public (this can immediately disqualify theater that are located on studio lots that are just used as screening rooms).
- They need to have regular feature film screenings and keep to a regular schedule (this may disqualify some art spaces that just set up a screen and do the occasional show).
- The theater needs to advertise in the newspaper (according to the Academy a listing of their showtimes is enough to satisfy this qualification).
- The film in contention needs to have been screened in either 35mm or DCP made to Academy specifications.
Making a mistake as simple as having an improperly formatted DCP (Digital Cinema Package) can bring your Oscars run to a screeching halt. So what are the Academy specifications for a DCP?
Video: 24.00 frames per second
Color Space: XYZ
Video Format: 2K – 2048×1080 container size (1920×1080, 1998×1080, 2048×858 and other image sizes are acceptable)
Audio Format: 24-bit, 48 kHz uncompressed. Minimum 3 channels (Left,Right,Center) or 5.1 (L,R,C,LFE,LS,RS)
Audio Channel Mapping: 1:Left 2:Right 3:Center 4:Subwoofer 5:Left Surround 6:Right Surround
Encryption: Unencrypted material only
Having a properly formatted DCP can help you with your distributor deliverables as well since most have similar specs for their acquisitions.
Independent movie theaters that want to stay competitive with the chain theaters and continue to help indie filmmakers need to make changes to give them an edge. Being an Academy accredited theater is a fantastic selling point on top of whatever other experience you can offer your clientele.