“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 penalized for something beyond anyone’s control,” Academy President David Rubin and CEO Dawn Hudson said in a statement. ABC Entertainment President Karey Burke added that the network, which airs the telecast, will continue working with the academy to “ensure next year’s show is a safe and celebratory event."
This past April, the academy responded to movie theater closures by loosening eligibility requirements for the 2021 ceremony. Whereas the rules normally require films to have played in Los Angeles County theaters for at least a full week, the academy said it would make room for otherwise-qualifying films that were forced to ditch planned theatrical runs in favor of streaming or video on-demand releases.
This move was received favorably by many who believe the academy, along with notable film festivals, has been slow to stray from tradition — a conversation that reemerged last year after Netflix planned theatrical releases for films like “The Irishman” and “Marriage Story” to meet the requirement. But the extended eligibility window announced Monday suggests the academy hasn’t necessarily changed its ways, after all. New York magazine critic Bilge Ebiri tweeted his distaste for the decision to extend the window, adding that “there are plenty of very good films coming out this year — many of which are exactly the kinds of films Oscar *should* be honoring but rarely does.” Writer Mark Harris echoed the sentiment.
The news arrives days after the academy announced its intention to come up with a more inclusive set of eligibility standards, one of the first explicit actions taken to diversify the slates of competing films. These standards, part of an equity initiative called Academy Aperture 2025, will be developed by a task force with the help of the Producers Guild of America and are expected to be implemented by August.
The academy also stated that, beginning with the 2022 ceremony, it would set the now-fluctuating number of best picture nominees at 10, allowing for a wider swath of films to be represented. It will also implement a quarterly viewing process to ensure members have seen the films in contention before they vote, an attempt to address widespread criticism of how the current screening system operates.
While it is unusual for the Oscars to be delayed, the Hollywood Reporter noted that it has happened thrice before: after the Los Angeles flood in 1938, after Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination in 1968 and after the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan in 1981. The 2021 changes were announced in the face of an unabating pandemic, during which studios have shuffled around major release dates like those of the latest James Bond film, “No Time to Die,” and Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet."
The Oscars are the climax of the awards season, which traditionally begins the preceding summer and picks up in earnest later that fall. The 74th Tony Awards, initially scheduled for June 7, were postponed to an unspecified date. While the Television Academy stated Monday that it intends to host the 72nd Primetime Emmy Awards on Sept. 20 as planned (though there are “discussions regarding the format and production”), the Creative Arts Emmys will take place virtually in September.