If you want to catch up with Oscar Visual Effects nominee “Godzilla Minus One” before the awards Sunday night, you’ve got exactly one option: Find an Academy member who will invite you to view it on the voters’ portal. For everyone else in the world, you’re out of luck.

Why? Although never confirmed by Toho, it relates to an apparent contractual agreement between Toho, the Japanese studio that created (and still owns rights to) “Godzilla,” and Legendary Entertainment, which licensed the monster character for a series of films released by Warner Bros. Legendary’s latest with Warners, “Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire,” fifth in the MonsterVerse franchise, opens wide in the U.S./Canada March 29.

Toho retains the ability to make its own “Godzilla” movies, but with the reported limitation of not releasing them in the same year as a Legendary production. Under that arrangement, “Godzilla Minus One” opened in Japan last November, and then domestically (as well as multiple European countries) in December.

“Godzilla Minus One” has yet to open in China, South Korea, India, and other significant Asian markets. At this writing, no dates are listed on IMDb or other sites that track foreign releases.

Godzilla Minus One
‘Godzilla Minus One’©Toho Company Ltd/Courtesy Everett Collection

“Godzilla Minus One” turned out to be a sleeper success in the U.S, grossing $56 million stateside. That’s stunning for a subtitled film and even more so for one that was anticipated as pre-holiday filler. A black-and-white version was added in January.

However, Toho notified theaters that all dates for “Godzilla Minus One” had to end by February 1 — even though “Godzilla Minus One” still ranked #8 in the final weekend of its run, after January 26, with a $2.7 million gross. It’s highly unusual to force a film to leave theaters while it’s still making money, but that’s consistent with reports of limits imposed on its looming competition with “Godzilla x Kong.”

Perhaps even stranger: When “Godzilla Minus One” left theaters, PVOD did not follow, and more than a month later, a PVOD release date remains elusive. (A Japanese release on physical media was just announced for May 5.)

At the Oscars on Sunday, March 10, the low-budget (under $15 million) “Godzilla Minus One” is considered a favorite to win Best Visual Effects. It’s an incredible opportunity for the film to reach an even wider audience — except there is almost no way to see it. That might be unprecedented.

There have been rare occasions when winners of the Best Foreign Language Film (now International Feature) had yet to be released in the U.S. (This is the only Oscar category for which domestic release is not a requirement.) The last time was in 2009, when Japan’s “Departures” won. It was still available in its home country and a handful of others; Regent Releasing opened the film in the U.S. three months later.

BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 12: An action figure from Godzilla Minus One is seen during the 96th Oscars Nominees Luncheon at The Beverly Hilton on February 12, 2024 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by JC Olivera/Getty Images)
An action figure from ‘Godzilla Minus One’ displayed during the 96th Oscars Nominees LuncheonJC Olivera/Getty Images

Whatever the agreement between Toho and Legendary may be, it preceded the success of “Godzilla Minus One.” As a separate production with excellent reviews, popular success, and an untapped wider audience, it made sense that Legendary preferred it not overlap with “Godzilla x Kong.” Also, sources indicate that Toho is a partner, not just rights holder, in the production and stands to profit from its success.

This comes as Warners maximizes Legendary’s previous “Dune” and “Godzilla” films concurrent with their sequels’ release. The first “Dune” is high on current VOD charts (at a $3.99 rental) and was on Netflix’s top 10 until last week, when it left the service. The 2014 “Godzilla” remains available to view on Netflix and elsewhere.

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