The five films nominated for the Best Animated Short Film were pulled from the web this week, just days ahead of Sunday's Academy Awards ceremony. The move was reportedly spurred by Carter Pilcher, CEO of distributor Shorts International. In a February 14th letter obtained by Deadline, Pilcher urged the Oscar nominees to remove their works from the internet, arguing that online streaming would result in "significant, if not irreparable damage" to their theatrical release.
In the letter, Pilcher notes that this month's online release has already elicited "a very significant, adverse reaction from the independent theaters that are playing the films," adding that some were threatening to remove them because of plummeting audiences. But his commercial concerns were shaded with tones of Old Hollywood dogmatism, as well.
"no feature length film would consider a free online release as a marketing tool."
"Unlike Webbies or Ani’s, the Academy Award is designed to award excellence in the making of motion pictures that receive a cinematic release, not an online release," Pilcher wrote. "This release of the films on the Internet threatens to destroy 8 years of audience growth and the notion that these film gems are indeed movies — no feature length film would consider a free online release as a marketing tool!"
Pilcher went on to argue that web streaming wouldn't give any film a competitive advantage, since Academy voters already "have other and better means" of viewing the films, though he may have ignored some crucial disparities in dismissing online platforms as an ineffective marketing tool.
This year's list of nominees includes an unusually polarized mix of both corporate and independent films. As Wired notes, Disney's Paperman and 20th Century Fox's The Longest Daycare likely don't need online promotions to reach a wide audience, though it's hard to say the same for smaller nominees like Adam & Dog or Head Over Heels. Ultimately, however, all five adhered to Pilcher's request, and are no longer available on YouTube.