By Scott Feinberg
The Hollywood Reporter
A version of this article appeared in the December Awards Playbook edition of The Hollywood Reporter.
Everyone pays lip service to the idea that movies should be seen on the big screen. But during awards season, that ideal goes out the window. After all, who has the time to see everything on the big screen? Not many academy members, who increasingly prefer to consume films in their living rooms, surrounded by friends and family, especially over the Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks. (An academy official told me this month that attendance at official academy screenings has been way down this year, as has been true for the past few years, almost certainly because voters prefer to watch films at their leisure rather than schlep out on a weekend to the Samuel Goldwyn Theatre in Beverly Hills or the Lighthouse International Theatre in New York.)
So since the ’80s, every distributor worth its salt has sent “screeners” — originally in the form of VHS tapes, then DVDs and now, in some cases, Blu-rays — to members of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences as a way of ensuring that those 6,000 or so individuals watch, or at least have no excuse for not watching, the Oscar hopefuls. Without screeners, it’s doubtful that Oscars would have been awarded to Roberto Benigni for Life Is Beautiful, Hilary Swank for Boys Don’t Cry, Marcia Gay Harden for Pollock or Halle Berry for Monster’s Ball, or that 2005’s Crash and 2009’s The Hurt Locker would have become best picture winners.