Following Warner Brothers’ decision to move Tenet back a couple weeks, the Academy has also decided to move, pushing the 2021 Oscar telecast back by two months, from February 28, 2021 to April 25, 2021. Eligibility for consideration has also been extended, with the exhibition window running until February 28, 2021, instead of December 31, 2020. (In response, the BAFTAs moved to April 11, 2021, but the Golden Globes and other award shows have not yet announced new dates.) What the Oscars will look like come April 2021 is anyone’s guess. It could be virtual, it could be nominees-only, it could be the host and a feral cat colony. I think at least part of the reason for the delay is to give the board of governors time to figure out how to handle the actual ceremony given that social distancing et cetera will probably still be in place come next spring.
Another reason for extending eligibility is to get more movies released after theaters have been closed for months. I don’t know if extending the eligibility window by two months will really make for a more robust nominee pool, though. As I keep saying, we don’t really know when we’re going to see movies back in theaters, and that seems to be a key sticking point for filmmakers and distributors (maybe more so filmmakers than distributors, who would be happy to get some digital rental revenue right about now).
The Academy already changed the eligibility for the year, allowing first-run streaming films consideration without a theatrical run. That did not lead to a rush of Oscar-type films hitting VOD, though, as it seems filmmakers are largely still waiting to get their films into theaters. I low-key thought some filmmakers would want to get their films out there for people to see, but that has not really been the case. Instead, we’re probably in for a cycle of opening and closing theaters as outbreaks occur, with irregular drops of new films hitting theaters in these little pockets of opportunity. This is not a nourishing environment I’m describing, I’m talking about a Wild West situation with theaters opening and closing at will, and distributors playing fast and loose with exhibition strategies, mixing and matching theatrical release and VOD drops. We don’t know what the Oscar telecast will look like next spring, and we don’t know what going to the movies will be like, period. One thing is for sure, though, it’s going to be a weird f-ckin’ award season.