The current Oscars experiment that lands the 92nd Academy Awards earlier than ever in 2020 — on Sunday, February 9 — looks to be a short-lived one, at least for the near future.
On Tuesday, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is announcing Oscar show dates for 2021 and 2022, with the organization and its broadcast network ABC 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 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 28 — nearly three weeks later than the the revised 2020 date. The Academy has now also set Sunday February 27, 2022 for the 94th Academy Awards.
AMPAS has not yet named 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 ABC was closely consulted in this decision.
There are several reasons for the earlier Oscars, but big sporting events are a key roadblock in making the earlier future Oscar dates work in upcoming years. AMPAS identified only one Sunday in 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 date would 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 will itself be starting a week earlier than usual (February 4-20), thus allowing Oscar to stay in February and grab the 27th.
AMPAS is withholding 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 close together on the calendar — including a shorter period for nominees to play in theaters, 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 23, 2020 as the date for the 92nd Oscar show, but increasingly dropping ratings (off approximately 16% from the previous year) for the 90th show on ABC was one reason that led the board of governors to reexamine the idea, thinking the later date following a slew of other awards events was damaging Oscar. As one Academy 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.
In the meantime, the 91st Oscar show on February 24, 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 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 confidence that things are returning to normal in the foreseeable future.
Here are the key Academy key dates for the 2019-2020 awards season:
|Governors Awards||Sunday, October 27, 2019|
|Preliminary Voting Begins||Friday, December 6, 2019|
|Preliminary Voting Ends||Tuesday, December 10, 2019|
|Nominations Voting Begins||Thursday, January 2, 2020|
|Nominations Voting Ends||Tuesday, January 7, 2020|
|Oscar Nominations Announcement||Monday, January 13, 2020|
|Oscar Nominees Luncheon||Monday, January 27, 2020|
|Finals Voting Begins||Thursday, January 30, 2020|
|Finals Voting Ends||Tuesday, February 4, 2020|
|92nd Oscars||Sunday, February 9, 2020|
As previously announced, the Academy’s Scientific and Technical Awards have moved to June 2020. Sci-Tech 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:
|Submissions open||Tuesday, July 9, 2019|
|Submission deadline||Tuesday, July 30, 2019|
|Similar technology open||Tuesday, August 27, 2019|
|Similar technology deadline||Tuesday, September 17, 2019|
|Awards presentation||Saturday, June 20, 2020|