Right before Oscar nominations were announced this morning, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President David Rubin confirmed Deadline’s exclusive from last week that the upcoming 93rd annual Academy Awards show would be coming from both the vast Union Station in downtown Los Angeles and the show’s usual haunt, the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood. Also seemingly coming to fruition, as insiders previously told Deadline’s Mike Fleming Jr., is a plan to have presenters and nominees — and their guests — attending in person at Union Station, where social distancing would be easier to enforce due to the size of the facility.
Without confirming details about how it will work or what each venue is being used for, this basically is what Rubin has indicated in an email sent to all 9,362 voting members of the Academy, as well as other members, to explain why there will not be the usual ticket lottery this year. All other in-person events associated with Oscar season also are canceled including nomination screenings; the Oscar Nominees Luncheon and the International Feature Film nominees cocktail reception; and public programming for the Short Film, Documentary, Animated Feature, International Feature Film and Makeup & Hairstyling categories. He also noted that, as was the case with the Emmys in September, a post-Oscars Governors Ball celebration has been deep-sixed as well, and there will be no official Academy-sanctioned Oscar Night watch parties in London and New York.
One former AMPAS president contacted me Friday to suggest that, with news that L.A. finally was beginning to open movie theaters after a year of being closed, it would be great to have the Academy reopen its Beverly Hills and Hollywood theaters for nominee screenings as a way to see contenders on the big screen. However, AMPAS is not ready to power up its theaters at this point and, as I said Friday in my Notes on the Season column, has announced no plans to do so. Official screenings will be done on the AMPAS digital site, The Screening Room.
No mention is made of any on-site press attendance at either 2021 Oscar venue or how the red carpet will be handled. The Oscars obviously are a mega-event that normally would draw hordes of reporters from around the globe.
“In a year marked by so much uncertainty, one thing is without question: We have enlisted the ideal trio of producers — Jesse Collins, Stacey Sher and Steven Soderbergh — to put together an Oscars show like none other, to honor the extraordinary movies, memorable performances and achievements in filmmaking of the past year,” Rubin wrote to members. One of those producers, Collins, was involved in the producing teams for both the Super Bowl halftime show with The Weeknd as well as last night’s Grammy Awards (pointedly without The Weeknd), and the latter gave a real indication of how the Zoom-style presentations of the Golden Globes, Critics Choice, Gotham Awards and upcoming SAG and guild awards don’t have to be the rule when it comes to crown jewels like Grammys or Oscars — where, with careful planning and logistics, nominees and performers can appear in person. Again, no specific details as to how that will work for the Academy Awards, but it possibly could resemble the way the Oscars were in the early days when they were a more intimate banquet at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. My guess is that, taking a cue from the Grammys, performances and Best Song presentations could take place on the Dolby Theatre stage separate from the venue housing the nominees and award presentations.
I thought the Grammy setup really worked well in these tough circumstances, and despite all-time low ratings (a 53% drop from last year), the show EP’d by new producer Ben Winston was pretty terrific. Of course, the Grammys benefit from being mainly a performance show rather than the hardware handout that tends to bog down Oscar ceremonies. The Academy needs only to look at dismal ratings from pandemic-afflicted Emmys, Golden Globes, Critics Choice and now Grammys to surmise that just breaking even with last year’s all-time low numbers would be some sort of nirvana at this point. As I have said many times, though, this year’s Oscar show needs to serve a greater purpose, one it is uniquely situated on April 25 to do. Enlisting every major star the Academy can find, the Oscars can serve as a starting gun to reopen the industry in a big way and get people back to the moviegoing experience. It is a much-needed shot in the arm, just like those other shots the world is getting now.
Here is Rubin’s letter in full:
Dear Fellow Academy Members,
I join you in congratulating all our Oscar nominees. We are now less than two months away from an Oscars show at the iconic Los Angeles landmarks Union Station and Dolby Theatre. A show that will undoubtedly be unique and memorable!
Though we’d hoped the pandemic would be more in our rearview mirror by the month of April, the health and safety of our members and Oscar nominees are our primary concern, so we’ve had to make some necessary decisions about some of our highly anticipated Oscar-week events.
This year, those attending the awards in person will be nominees, their guest, and presenters — with an audience of millions watching and cheering from all around the world. As a result, we will not be able to conduct our annual member ticket lottery.
We also will not hold any in-person events, including nominations screenings, the Oscar Nominees Luncheon and such beloved Oscar-week occasions as the International Feature Film nominee cocktail reception, and public programming for the Short Film, Documentary, Animated Feature, International Feature Film and Makeup and Hairstyling categories. I’m sorry to add that this year’s awards also will not include a post-Oscars Governors Ball celebration, or Oscar Night watch parties in London and New York.
In a year marked by so much uncertainty, one thing is without question: We have enlisted the ideal trio of producers—Jesse Collins, Stacey Sher and Steven Soderbergh—to put together an Oscars show like none other, to honor the extraordinary movies, memorable performances and achievements in filmmaking of the past year.
We appreciate your support and understanding, as we all look forward to an exciting show on April 25th.