As widely expected and endlessly speculated, the other shoe has dropped and Oscar is on the move. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said Monday morning that the 93rd Academy Awards, originally scheduled for February 28, 2021, will now take place on April 25 — the latest date ever since Oscar started the TV era in 1953. You would have to go all the way back to the earliest Oscar show in 1929 for a May (16) date but that repped the years 1927-29. There were three dates between 1930 and 1932 where because of combined years they were actually held in November (!) but in terms of the TV era this is unprecedented.
Previously, the latest Oscars viewers have been able to watch was when The Sound of Music took Best Picture on April 18, 1966. It was also the first time the ceremony was telecast in color. This new date will be paired with the now again delayed opening of the Academy’s new Museum of Motion Pictures, which moves from a December 14, 2020 open, as announced by Tom Hanks on the most recent Oscar show, to April 30, 2021. The gala opening will take place on Saturday, April 17, a week before Oscar Sunday. It is sure to be a momentous period and dizzying few days if AMPAS, coronavirus pandemic cooperating, can stick to this new timetable.
Of course, this sets a crazy course ahead for the next movie awards season. For the first time since Oscar’s earliest days, the eligibility requirements for movies is extended by two months. Movies that have a qualifying release date between January 1, 2020 and February 28, 2021 will now be able to compete in the next Academy Awards. Submission dates for various categories are also updated due to these momentous changes. AMPAS says, however, that the intent going forward is to ultimately return to a regular calendar year. The last time there were split years was 1932-33, Oscar’s sixth year, where Fox’s Cavalcade won Best Picture.
We can now expect BAFTA, all the guild and other precursor awards shows including the Golden Globes and Critics’ Choice Awards to follow suit and adjust their dates as well. The traditional fall film festival season, which traditionally kicks off the six-month movie awards season in early September at Venice/Telluride/Toronto, is also likely to be affected by the actions of the Academy’s board today. As one studio consultant just told me, anticipating these changes, “Who will have the stomach for an eight-month season?”
I am told by AMPAS sources that before reaching this decision, the organization worked very closely with studios/distributors to see what they needed to finish and ready films. AMPAS also worked closely, I am told, with the Los Angeles Department of Public Health, and Dr. Atul Nakhasi among others, whose advice was to push out as far as possible to allow for as much information on the pandemic as possible, as they expect and hope to have a much better idea in the new year, thus informing next steps in a better way. The source said, “It doesn’t serve to just push a couple of weeks…a couple of weeks doesn’t help with the uncertainty. A couple of months is more meaningful on everything from eligibility to actually planning the event and what that may look like.” ABC, as the Academy’s broadcast partner, was obviously in concert with all of these plans.
“We find ourselves in uncharted territory this year and will continue to work with our partners at the Academy to ensure next year’s show is a safe and celebratory event that also captures the excitement of the opening of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures,” ABC Entertainment president Karey Burke said in unveiling today’s news.
Said Academy president David Rubin and Academy CEO Dawn Hudson: “For over a century, movies have played an important role in comforting, inspiring, and entertaining us during the darkest of times. They certainly have this year. Our hope, in extending the eligibility period and our awards date, is to provide the flexibility filmmakers need to finish and release their films without being penalized for something beyond anyone’s control. This coming Oscars and the opening of our new museum will mark an historic moment, gathering movie fans around the world to unite through cinema.”
As for the Academy Museum, it has trudged through a number of delays and hoped-for openings. Hopefully for this long-anticipated landmark, this date sticks. Museum director Bill Kramer said: “I speak for all of us at the Museum when I say that we have been eagerly awaiting the moment when we can share the Academy Museum with movie lovers everywhere. With the unprecedented and devastating pandemic happening around the world and our commitment first and foremost to the health and safety of our visitors and staff, we have made the difficult decision to wait a few more months to open our doors. Thankfully, with COVID-19 safety protocols in place, exhibitions continue to be installed. We look forward to April 2021 when Los Angeles and the world will be able to join together as the Academy celebrates the Oscars and the opening of its long-dreamed-of Museum.”
Future eligibility windows and the Oscar show date for 2022 will be announced at a later date, as will information regarding the 12th annual Governors Awards, which AMPAS confirms will not take place as usual this fall.
This year’s Academy’s Scientific and Technical Awards presentation, which was scheduled for June 20 in Beverly Hills, has also been postponed to a later date to be determined.
Here are the key dates for the 2020-21 Oscar season:
Monday, February 1
Preliminary voting begins
Friday, February 5
Preliminary voting ends
Tuesday, February 9
Oscar Shortlists Announcement
Friday, March 5
Nominations voting begins
Wednesday, March 10
Nominations voting ends
Monday, March 15
Oscar Nominations Announcement
Thursday April 15
Oscar Nominees Luncheon
Thursday April 15
Finals voting begins
Saturday, April 17
Tuesday, April 20
Finals voting ends
Sunday, April 25
Friday, April 30
Museum Public Opening