Update: Sources say the Motion Picture Academy is currently exploring how an in-person Oscar ceremony could work next spring given the state of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Academy had moved its annual telecast back two months to April 25, 2021. Sources inside the Oscars say that by pushing the awards ceremony back, the Academy hoped that theaters would be open again in the spring, thus allowing for more movies to compete in the annual celebration of the year’s best films.
But even if movie theaters stay closed, by holding the Oscars later in spring, organizers are looking at how the event can continue as it always live. There are still questions as to exactly how many people will be allowed inside the 3,400-seat Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, where the ceremony traditionally takes place.
“The Academy has done a walkthrough of the Dolby recently to see all the multiple options,” says an awards publicist familiar with the situation.
It’s not clear what safety protocols will be introduced for the ceremony. A representative from the Dolby Theatre declined to comment.
Since the March lockdowns, the COVID-19 pandemic has crippled the film industry, with movie theaters closed and production halted. In response, the Academy extended the eligibility timeline from Dec. 31 to Feb. 28, 2021, in addition to having films that premiere on streaming platforms qualify for submission.
The Emmys ceremony in September was a hybrid event that had some in-person elements with host Jimmy Kimmel and most nominees watching the show from home over Zoom.
It’s not clear how many of the nominees will be able to — or will agree to — in-person attendance. In the acting races, many seasoned actors are on the older side, including Anthony Hopkins, 82; Ellen Burstyn, 88; Sophia Loren, 86; Meryl Streep, 71; David Strathairn, 72; and Yuh-Jung Youn, 73.
Four televised ceremonies lead up to the Oscars: Golden Globes (Feb. 28), Critics Choice (March 7), SAG (March 14) and BAFTA (April 11).
The Globes, which are hosted by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, said in a July 27 press release that their show would air live from The Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills and hosted by Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. The HFPA declined to comment for this story.
The SAG Awards, which are given out by the 165,000+ members of SAG-AFTRA, are typically held at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, which has a seating capacity of 6,300. The crucial precursor to the Academy Awards did not rule out the possibility for a virtual show. “For our show, we’re looking at a variety of options,” says a spokesperson for the SAG Awards. “Our submission period has just closed, but numbers are on par with previous years, and we are looking forward to a strong competition this awards season. We are excited to honor this year’s outstanding performances in both film and television in March. And like our colleagues at other awards shows, we are working to create an entertaining and safe show for all of our nominees.”
The Critics Choice Awards, which has traditionally been one of the first televised award shows, are open to many different options. “We know the show is happening,” says Joey Berlin, CEO and President of Critics Choice Association. “Taye Diggs will be on stage. There are three possibilities. It’s the Emmys, it’s like the Critics Choice Awards last year, or it’s a hybrid. It doesn’t seem likely that on March 7, most of our nominees and eventual winners are going to be happy to gather somewhere.” Last year’s ceremony had almost 2,000 people in attendance at the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica. Berlin confirms the venue is on hold, but they are also holding others. Critics Choice is holding their inaugural Super Awards virtually in January.
There have been over 13 million confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States, with over 269,000 deaths. According to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, L.A. County is the leading county in the U.S. for cases (at over 400,000) and deaths (over 7,600). Increased COVID-19 cases have triggered a mandatory three-week “Safer at Home” order for Los Angeles County that will last through Dec. 20.
Clarification: An earlier version of this story reported that the Academy confirmed that an in-person ceremony would take place. That was incorrect. The Academy has not set their plans for the Oscars.