The current Oscars experiment that lands the 92nd Academy Awards earlier than ever in 2020 on Sunday February 9th looks to be a short-lived one , at least for the near future.
Today The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences is announcing Oscar show dates for 2021 and 2022 and the organization and its broadcast network ABC is returning the traditionally most-watched awards show to the more familiar turf of the end of February, as opposed to that upcoming 2020 show which will be aired on February 9th, Oscar’s earliest date ever. Actually the 2021 date for the 93rd Academy Awards was initially announced in advance with several others in 2017 and, contrary to recent expectations that it too would be moved earlier, remains untouched on Sunday February 28th, nearly three weeks later than the the revised 2020 date. The Academy also has now set Sunday February 27th 2022 for the 94th Academy Awards. AMPAS has not yet named any dates beyond 2022, but the trend is clear that the idea of an “earlier” Oscars is apparently a one-off, even before it has been tried. You can be assured that ABC was closely consulted in this decision.
There are several reasons but big sporting events are a key roadblock in making the earlier future Oscar dates work in upcoming years. AMPAS identified only one Sunday for 2021 in which football didn’t interfere but it would have been the Presidents Day holiday weekend and there was no way they would do it then. As for 2022 the awards show date would once again collide with the Winter Olympics as it does every four years sending the Oscar telecast usually into the first weekend of March. However the Beijing 2022 Olympics itself will be starting a week earlier than usual (Feb 4 thru Feb 20), thus allowing Oscar to stay in February and grab the 27th. AMPAS is witholding any decisions on dates beyond then but the sudden change, announced in September, for the 92nd Oscars threw awards season schedules into chaos forcing several other shows such as BAFTA and film festivals such as Santa Barbara to move up their dates as well since they are largely dependent on preceding Oscar. As a result we have a compressed and shorter overall season that will launch at Labor Day, but it was clearly problematic for many and has squeezed a lot of precursor events very close together on the calendar including a shorter period for nominees to play in theatres, something that worried exhibitors. There was also deep concern that Oscar voters would have even less time than they do now to actually see the contenders.
In 2017 AMPAS had actually announced February 23rd 2020 as the date for the 92nd Oscar show , but increasingly dropping ratings (down approximately 16% from the previous year) for the 90th on ABC was one reason that led the Board Of Governors to reexamine the idea, thinking that the later date following a slew of other awards events was damaging Oscar. As one Governor put it to me at the time, “we have to do something“. That “something” turned out to be a decision to move the 92nd show up by two weeks in the hope it would help maintain viewer interest. However in the meantime the 91st Oscar show on Feburary 24th , which featured more popular Best Picture nominees than in recent years, saw a 12% ratings bump and upbeat reviews, so the pressing need to go earlier likely didn’t seem quite as urgent anymore and the show felt more confident in getting out of the way of the sports competition. What the future holds beyond 2022, and the Academy is keeping its options open I am told, is anyone’s guess but everyone can now plan ahead beyond 2020 with the confidence that things are returning to normal in the forseeable future.
Academy key dates for the 2019/2020 awards season are:
As previously announced, the Academy’s Scientific and Technical Awards have moved to June 2020. Scientific and Technical Awards are given for technologies developed over a period of time and are not specific to a single awards year. Key dates are as follows:
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