Due to the continued uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, the 2021 Oscars have been postponed two months. Originally set to take place on February 28th, Hollywood’s Biggest Night will now occur on April 25th, 2021.
Additionally, the Academy has extended the eligibility period for nominated films by two months. The window for qualifying films now spans from January 1st 2020 to February 28th, 2021, with a general submission deadline set for January 15th 2021, according to Variety. The Academy plans to return to a standard January to December eligibility period next year.
Previously, the Academy made substantial, unprecedented adjustments to the eligibility rules this past April in response to the outbreak. One of those allows for digital screenings, altering the long-standing requirement that films needed to be screened physically for at least one week in a Los Angeles-area theater in order to qualify.
“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,” Academy president David Rubin and CEO Dawn Hudson said in a statement.
While rare, the Academy has actually postponed the Oscars three times in the past — and all instances were tied to some catastrophic nationwide event. As The Hollywood Reporter points out, the Academy rescheduled the awards show in 1938 due to flood in Los Angeles; in 1968 in response to the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; and in 1981 following the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan.
As for this year’s ceremony, though it will take place two months later than originally anticipated, the Academy maintains that it will still be held “at the Dolby Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center in Hollywood” and “will air live on ABC.” It remains to be seen whether social distancing guidelines will be put into place, such as limited capacity or requiring the nominees to wear masks.
As with the music world, COVID-19 has greatly impacted the film industry — to the tune of an estimated $20 billion in losses. Production on films and TV shows is expected to resume in California later this summer, though that’s after a prolonged delay which has already forced postponed theatrical release dates. Movie theaters are also in a precarious position after months of being shuttered; AMC in particular doubts whether it will be able to financially “survive” the outbreak. Health experts warn that a second wave of the novel virus could hit in the fall.
Editor’s note: The delay and change in rules means a number of Oscars contenders could end up on streaming services like Hulu and Disney Plus before the ceremony. Right now, you can secure a 7-day free trial for a bundle of Disney Plus, Hulu, and ESPN+. You can also watch the Oscars live on ABC via Hulu + Live TV, which is also offering a 7-day free trail.