Coronavirus Pushes Oscars, and Oscar Eligibility, Back Several Months

Guillermo del Toro winning Oscars for The Shape of Water in 2018. (Photo: FREDERIC J. BROWN, AFP via Getty Images)
Guillermo del Toro winning Oscars for The Shape of Water in 2018. (Photo: FREDERIC J. BROWN, AFP via Getty Images)

With movie theatres closed for a good chunk of 2020 and only a tiny number of movies being released, how were movie awards going to be impacted? It was a question many film fans have had and now there’s an answer. It’s all just getting pushed back.

Originally scheduled for February 28, 2021, the 93rd Academy Awards are now going to take place on April 25, 2021. Plus, films released between January 1, 2020, and February 28, 2021, will be eligible. That’s a full two months longer than usual, since the eligibility window generally ends with the calendar year.

So, what does this all mean? Well, first and foremost, the dates will hopefully/hypothetically allow for the ceremony to be as safe as possible. It’s a huge gathering with a lot of people and there’s always a chance even April of next year is being generous. But, with the world slowly starting to reopen, it seems like as safe a date as any.

Second, the delays change the release strategy in terms of awards films for studios. Most major awards films open in the fall or winter with the aim of being fresh in the minds of award voters when ballots are cast early in the new year. But now, studios that have had to push and rearrange their entire release schedule have wiggle room if they think one of their films could be an award contender.

Finally, as previously announced, for this year only, films released to streaming services without a theatrical release are eligible. So movies that have been, and will continue to be, released to streaming during the covid-19 pandemic can be nominated for awards. That rule will go away next year.

“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 penalised for something beyond anyone’s control,” Academy President David Rubin and CEO Dawn Hudson said in a joint statement. “This coming Oscars and the opening of our new museum will mark a historic moment, gathering movie fans around the world to unite through cinema.”

Oh, that too. The Academy Museum in Los Angeles, CA, originally scheduled to open in December, will now open April 30, 2021, right after the Oscars.

The awards are the biggest news there though. With those questions now answered, the discussion turns to film festivals (where many big award contenders get their start) and other award shows. Will those things follow suit? We don’t know. But the conversations can now begin.


Editor’s Note: Release dates within this article are based in the U.S., but will be updated with local Australian dates as soon as we know more.