Score another victory for the coronavirus. Less than a week after announcing changes to the Oscar process starting next year, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has had its hand forced and put out a statement today noting that next year’s Oscars will be pushed back by two months. In addition, the entire schedule for the 93rd Academy Awards has been restructured, including accepting films well into next year.
Sadly, this move does come out of need. Even though the Academy temporarily changed its eligibility rule two months ago to allow for streaming films to be considered (as long as they were intended for a theatrical release first), the shutdown of the film industry has had far-reaching effects. Even though streaming is an option, with the nation’s movie houses shuttered, studios have just been delaying or outright cancelling new movie releases. You can only put so much on Netflix, Pay-Per-View, or YouTube before it just gets lost in the shuffle. This move even puts last week’s decision to have quarterly viewing windows on the Academy Screening Room into greater perspective, as the shifting calendar all but necessitates Academy members being allowed to watch submissions basically on their own time.
But of course, that’s just for the movies that are already in the can waiting to be unleashed on the public. There are quite a few films that are scheduled to come out later this year that aren’t yet finished. With the exception of some post-production roles like film editing and sound effects, which can mostly be done remotely or in isolation, every aspect of production has been halted during this pandemic, and only in the last week has Hollywood been given the green light to resume operations. If a movie was hoping to vie for an Oscar and set a December release date, but they haven’t even finished shooting, it is unfair to make the filmmakers wait another year and completely retool their production schedule. Hell, maybe if this new calendar had been in place last year Tom Hooper wouldn’t have rushed Cats to the theatre so quickly and it might have actually been good. Nah.
So, here’s the updated schedule, released yesterday by the Academy, with all the major deadlines for the Oscar process.
Eligibility Deadline – February 28, 2021 – Typically the deadline is December 31, but the Academy is tacking on two additional months. The film industry has essentially lost three already (and likely a fourth before theatres open back up in wide enough numbers to matter), so there’s still going to be some bottle-necking as we get closer to the end. However, this might be a good thing for nationwide audiences, as they may actually get the contenders released to their local theatres the same time they do in New York and Los Angeles. One of the biggest complaints I hear from my friends is that they have to wait sometimes six extra weeks – well after nominations are announced – to see any contenders.
Specialty Submission Deadline – December 1, 2020 – This covers the more niche categories (Animated Feature, Animated Short, Documentary Feature, Documentary Short, International Feature, and Live Action Short), which typically are submitted on October 1. Again, we’re getting a two-month additional grace period. The difference here is that these categories also have their own eligibility calendars for either screening at qualifying film festivals (shorts and documentaries) or their home countries (International Feature), as well as the general ballot deadline if they want to compete in other categories. I’m guessing those deadlines will be extended as well, but there’s no specific mention of it that I could see in the press release.
General Ballot Submission Deadline – January 15, 2021 – I was hoping this wouldn’t be the case, because this is a major issue with all of awards season, as most egregiously displayed by the Golden Globes. It’s one thing for a movie to get released in L.A. before the end of the year to meet the deadline, but the voters get screener access a full six weeks before the eligibility deadline, which means the Hollywood Foreign Press Association can be easily bribed into giving studios nominations – and by extension free advertising – before the film even comes out, granting prestige and credibility it hasn’t earned. The Academy does this too, but it’s not as terrible, as there are literally 100 times more Academy voters than HFPA members, and they at least wait until after eligibility runs out before announcing nominees, but for lack of better term (and for the sake of a bad pun), I was hoping the Submission Deadline would coincide with the Eligibility Deadline so we can finally have Buzz Kill.
Preliminary Voting Begins – February 1, 2021
Preliminary Voting Ends – February 5, 2021 – Ugh, five days to vote on films that might not even be out yet? BOO!
Shortlists Announced – February 9, 2021 – Still in keeping with the two-month extension. This usually happens second week of December.
Nominations Voting Begins – March 5, 2021
Nominations Voting Ends – March 9, 2021 – Again, five days is not enough time for all these working people to vote. But at least they get a month between shortlists and the deadline, so at least there’s some time to watch stuff.
Nominees Announcement – March 15, 2021 – Beware the Ides of March, I guess.
Final Voting Begins – April 15, 2021
Final Voting Ends – April 20, 2021 – I don’t know how long the voting periods are during a normal Oscar season, but five days really does seem too short, especially this time around, when it starts on Tax Day and ends on 4/20. Either way, half of Hollywood is gonna be too busy rolling papers.
93rd Academy Awards – April 25, 2021 – The Oscars were going to be on February 28 next year, which was just fine by me, as it corrected the accelerated schedule we had this year. I’d actually have about six weeks to watch everything and do my usual Blitz instead of the three I had this year. This extension at least keeps that six-week window for us normal schlubs to actually see the nominees.
So that’s how it’s shaping up for next year. This isn’t unprecedented. As I’ve said before, the first few Academy Awards were split year ceremonies, so this isn’t exactly uncharted territory. And while the two-month extension doesn’t entirely compensate for the time already lost, it does at least give us the peace of mind of knowing that Sonic the Hedgehog won’t win Best Picture by default.
Join the conversation in the comments below! What do you think of these changes? Are you expecting more? With the extra two months, do you think they can finally find a decent host? Let me know!