The Academy is changing its qualifying rules governing the submission of feature-length and short documentaries for the 81st Oscars in 2009.

The move eliminates the multi-city theatrical rollout requirements and was recommended to the board by the Documentary Branch executive committee chaired by Michael Apted.

To qualify for the 81st Awards, documentary features must run for a minimum of seven days in both Los Angeles County and the Borough of Manhattan, and documentary short subjects must run for a minimum of seven days in either Los Angeles County or the Borough of Manhattan.

'By eliminating the multi-city rollout requirements we have significantly simplified the Academy rules while still retaining the core intent to ensure that we honour nonfiction work created for theatrical distribution,' Apted said.

'We believe the new rules will successfully eliminate from consideration documentaries made principally for television, the Internet or anywhere else.'

The seven-day runs must include at least two screenings per day and those screenings must begin between noon and 10pm. The film must be exhibited for paid admission and the film must be advertised and listed during its run in local newspapers and/or magazines.

For the Oscar competition currently in progress (the 80th Awards), documentary features were required to be screened in theatres for a minimum of 14 exhibitions in 10 states, and documentary short subjects for single exhibitions in at least four cities. Those rollouts were in addition to seven-day qualifying runs in either Los Angeles County or the Borough of Manhattan.

Another change to the documentary rules will result in financial savings for certain contenders. Those whose films reach the semi-final round of voting will no longer be required to provide two film prints to the Academy for use if they are subsequently selected as nominees. The 81st Awards rules will allow the two copies to be submitted either on film or in digital format.

'We need the copies early in the process because once the nominations are announced, we have only a couple of days before we start our membership screenings in LA, the Bay Area, New York and London,' Academy executive director Bruce Davis said.

'There just wasn't time to wait for film prints to be struck after the nominations announcement, so shortlisted film-makers were on the hook for the cost of prints whether their films were nominated or not. We can now present digital formats in all the theatres where we hold membership screenings, so documentarians need not spend the extra money.'

Because the eligibility year for the documentary categories runs from Sept 1 to Aug 31, rules for the categories are addressed earlier than those for the categories that follow the calendar year.