US Oscars awards ceremony postponed because of coronavirus

Coronavirus has closed movie theatres and prompted Oscars organisers to change eligibility rules and delay awards show.

The Academy Awards ceremony has been delayed eight weeks, to April, 2021 because of the coronavirus [Mark Ralston/AFP]
The Academy Awards ceremony has been delayed eight weeks, to April, 2021 because of the coronavirus [Mark Ralston/AFP]

For the fourth time in its history, the filmmaking world’s most famous awards, the Oscars, are being postponed in the United States.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the ABC Television Network said on Monday that the 93rd Academy Awards will now be held on April 25, 2021, eight weeks later than originally planned because of the pandemic’s effects on the movie industry.

The Academy’s Board of Governors also decided to extend the eligibility window beyond the calendar year to February 28, 2021, for feature films, and delay the opening of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures from December until April 30, 2021.

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

Karey Burke, the president of ABC Entertainment, added, “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.”

The 12th annual Governor’s Awards has also been cancelled. The event, in which honorary Oscars are bestowed to previously announced recipients, is generally held in Los Angeles during the second week of November. The untelevised event is a major gathering for many of the year’s awards hopefuls.

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The film academy has been grappling with how to handle the pandemic’s near shutdown of the theatrical exhibition and film production and festival business since mid-March.

Fluid situation

With theatres closed, release dates pushed back and significant festivals like Cannes cancelled, the academy in April made the unprecedented decision to allow films that did not have a theatrical run to be eligible for the awards but only for one year.

The Oscars ceremony date was the big lingering unknown, however. The organisation’s leadership has acknowledged all along that the situation was fluid and that everything was on the table. Now, Oscars nominations will be announced on March 15, and the nominees’ luncheon will be on April 15.

Still, many decisions need to be made. Academy leadership has not yet addressed the format of the show and whether it will be virtual or in-person. The future eligibility of films for the 94th Oscars and the date will be announced later.

The Oscars have been postponed before, but never this far in advance.

The ceremony was pushed back by a week because of disastrous flooding in Los Angeles in 1938. In 1968, it was delayed for two days following the assassination of Dr Martin Luther King Jr. and in 1981, it was put off for 24 hours after President Ronald Reagan was shot in Washington, DC. The 1981 decision was made four hours before the broadcast was scheduled to begin.

The eligibility window has been extended beyond 12 months once before in advance of the 6th Academy Awards in 1934.

Other entertainment industry awards shows are also in flux. The 74th Tony Awards, which recognises US Broadway theatre talent and was originally set for June 7, has been postponed indefinitely. But the 72nd Emmy Awards, the US television industry’s top honour is still holding onto September 20.

The British Academy of Film and Television Arts awards, the BAFTAs, announced on Monday that its annual film awards were being pushed from February 14, 2021 to April 11.

And the 78th Golden Globes, given by the Hollywood Foreign Press association and usually a precursor to the Oscars does not yet have a date.

Even as the US begins to open up, studios are still making decisions to delay releases. Only on Friday, Warner Bros announced that it was pushing back what was supposed to be the first major movie in theatres, Christopher Nolan’s, Tenet, by two weeks.


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