Oscars delayed two months until April by COVID-19; films released by Feb. 28 now eligible

The coronavirus pandemic has caused delays to most of this year’s biggest movies and now, to next year’s grandest night in Hollywood.

The 93rd Academy Awards, originally scheduled for Feb. 28, 2021, has been delayed to April 25 because of the ongoing health crisis. The Oscars ceremony will still be held at L.A.’s Dolby Theatre and air live on ABC.

The eligibility period for Academy Awards consideration has been extended beyond the usual Dec. 31 deadline. For the upcoming Oscars, a feature film must now have a qualifying release date between January 1, 2020 and February 28, 2021. As previously announced, for this year only, movies that premiere on streaming platforms will be eligible in Oscar categories.

The Oscars move and extended eligibility window is already affecting other events in the upcoming award season: The BAFTAs also announced Monday that its film awards were being pushed from Feb. 14, 2021 to April 11. The British Academy has also changed eligibility rules so that films whose theatrical releases were curtailed or switched to online-only releases will be eligible for consideration.

There hasn’t been a date announced yet for the upcoming Golden Globes, usually held in early January, while the Screen Actors Guild Awards are currently slated for Jan. 24, 2021.

This is only the fourth time in Oscars history that the ceremony has been delayed. The first postponement, in 1938, was due to massive flooding in Los Angeles, and subsequent delays stemmed from the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968 and an attempt on President Ronald Reagan in 1981. The 1981 decision came just four hours before the broadcast was scheduled to begin.

“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,” Academy president David Rubin and Academy CEO Dawn Hudson said in a joint statement Monday. “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.”

The delay is the latest among major changes being done by the Academy. Last week, it announced sweeping plans aimed at swiftly furthering its diversity and inclusion initiatives, including setting the best picture category at 10 nominees.

In addition to a shifting of the upcoming Oscars ceremony, the Academy’s Scientific and Technical Awards presentation, originally scheduled for June 20, has been postponed indefinitely, and the annual Governors Awards have been canceled.

Also Monday, the TV Academy said its Creative Arts ceremony will be held virtually in September, though it’s still going ahead with plans for its main awards on Sept. 20.


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