Academy Awards 2021: The Answers to All of Your Questions

As any movie lover knows, this year’s award season has been turned upside-down due to the coronavirus pandemic. While the Sundance Film Festival took place before all the shutdowns, the big three fall festivals—a canceled Telluride, a diminished semi-virtual TIFF, and Venice—failed to have the usual impact to influence what films are deemed front-runners so far this year. Also complicating matters is the large number of highly-anticipated big-budget films that have been rescheduled to come out after the qualifying periods for 2021 honors, such as “No Time to Die,” Daniel Craig’s final appearance as James Bond, and Denis Villeneuve’s “Dune." 

Given that many productions had to shut down this winter while patrons were unable to go to theaters, new eligibility rules had to be made and key dates had to be shifted by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. Here is a rundown of what we know about the status of the 93rd Academy Awards so far.

When will the show take place? The Academy and ABC announced on June 15th that the 2021 Oscars, which were originally scheduled for February 28th, would move to April 25th—the latest date ever since the show was first broadcast on TV in 1953. The Academy’s president David Rubin and CEO Dawn Hudson explained their reasoning for the move: “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 that filmmakers need to finish and release their films without being penalized for something beyond anyone’s control.”

It’s the fourth time that the ceremony has been postponed. In 1938, the Oscars were pushed back by a week because of flooding in Los Angeles. In 1968, the Oscars were to take place on April 8th but were delayed by two days in order to honor for Martin Luther King Jr., who was assassinated on April 4th. In 1981, the ceremony was supposed take place on March 30th, but was postponed for 24 hours after the assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan earlier that day.

Will the show be held virtually and is there a host? As of now, the ceremony is scheduled to take place at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood and will be televised live in more than 225 countries and territories worldwide. No one has yet been named to be an emcee for the evening.

What qualifications do movies have to meet? For the first time since Oscar’s birth, the eligibility period for films now spans two calendar years. Movies released in 2020 or the first two months of 2021 will be able to compete. The last time that there were split years was 1932-'33, the sixth year of the Academy Awards when “Cavalcade” won Best Picture. The change is due to delayed productions and release dates. To address the latter, the academy granted a one-time eligibility exemption on April 28 to films that canceled their theatrical releases and instead opted for a streaming or pay-per-view service.

Will the Academy’s Governors Awards be held this year? The event is postponed from its usual fall date while the selection of honorees will be provided later.

When are the Scientific and Technical Awards? The ceremony celebrating these was to have taken place on June 20. It has been postponed to a later, still-unannounced date.

What other dates have changed? The submission deadlines for specialty categories—Best Animated Feature Film, Documentary Feature, Documentary Short Subject, International feature film, Animated Short film and Live Action short film—is now December 1st rather than October 1st. The deadline for general entry categories, including Best Picture, Original Song and Original Score, is now January 15th, 2021 rather than November 15th. For the complete rules, visit oscars.org/rules.

Other key dates for the 2021 Oscars. On February 1st, preliminary voting begins for the nine categories with shortlists: Best Documentary Feature, Documentary Short Subject, International Feature Film, Makeup and Hairstyling, Original Score, Original Song, Animated Short Film, Live Action Short Film and Visual Effects. Other notable deadlines:

Friday, February 5: Preliminary voting ends

Tuesday, February 9: Oscar shortlists announcement

Wednesday, March 5: Nominations voting begins

Wednesday, March 10: Nomination voting ends

Monday, March 15: Oscar nominations announcement

Thursday, April 15: Oscar nominees luncheon

Thursday, April 15: Final voting begins

Tuesday, April 20: Final voting ends

What is happening with the other televised ceremonies? The 78th Golden Globes decided to sneak into Oscar’s vacated date on Sunday, February 28th, 2021. Lucky for the Hollywood Foreign Press, the organization already announced that Tina Fey and Amy Poehler would host this edition of its glitzy event right after the 2020 ceremony. Films that will premiere in January and February next year will be eligible while TV entries remain limited to shows that aired this year through December. Nominating ballots for the television categories are due by January 12th, with nominations to be announced on February 3rd.

The Screen Actors Guild Awards will take place on Sunday, March 14th. They, too, are extending the time frame for contenders by two months to allow TV shows and films released between January 1st, 2020 and February 28th, 2021 to compete.

As for the Critics Choice Awards, they will take place on March 7th, 2021. The event will once again be hosted by Taye Diggs and will be broadcast live on The CW network. TV nominations will be announced next year on January 18th while film selections will be revealed on February 7th.

The Film Independent Spirit Awards, which generally takes place the Saturday before the Oscars, will follow tradition and take place on April 24th, 2021.

As for the BAFTA Film Awards, the ceremony originally scheduled for February 14th will now take place on April 11th.

Susan Wloszczyna

Susan Wloszczyna spent much of her nearly thirty years at USA TODAY as a senior entertainment reporter. Now unchained from the grind of daily journalism, she is ready to view the world of movies with fresh eyes.

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