As California wades through the worst days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences is betting big on brighter days ahead. In a statement to Variety, a representative for Academy and ABC said that the 2021 Oscars—scheduled for April 25—will be a live broadcast from the 3,400-seat Dolby Theatre in Hollywood rather than a virtual affair.
“The Oscars in-person telecast will happen,” the rep said.
The awards show, which usually takes place in early February, had already been pushed back two months, largely because of pandemic-related disruptions to studios’ production and release schedules. According to sources, the hope was that theaters would open in spring, and more films would be released and submitted for consideration.
Now, it seems they’re dedicated to the idea of moving forward with an in-person ceremony whether or not movie theaters have reopened by early spring. Among the things that remain unclear about that plan is how many people will even be able to be seated in the Dolby at one time, although a publicist told Variety that a walkthrough had been performed so “multiple options” could be considered. But even with a COVID vaccine set to begin being rolled out by mid-December to frontline workers and other people at high risk of becoming infected, no one knows what safety regulations might still have to be enforced in five months time.
According to new pandemic-era rules, films released on VOD or in theaters by February 28, 2021 will be eligible for consideration, and nominations will take place on March 15. Some early frontrunners for the awards include films from Netflix—Mank and Da 5 Bloods among them—plus festival favorites like Nomadland, Promising Young Woman, and The Father.
While the Academy has five months to monitor COVID-19 conditions and make decisions based on a number of considerations—including vaccine availability, social distancing mandates, and whether older nominees will feel comfortable attending—it seems like getting the right host will be the least of their worries for a change. Luckily, the show’s producers will have the opportunity to see how a trio of other awards shows navigate the situation: the Golden Globes (February 28), the Critic’s Choice Awards (March 7), and the BAFTAs (April 11). But as the old saw goes, the show must go on.