The Academy said it still plans to have an in-person 2021 Oscars ceremony, which poses questions regarding how it plans to hold the event safely.
The Academy of Motion Arts and Sciences said the 2021 Oscars will be an in-person ceremony. For 91 years, the Academy Awards have been considered the most famous and prestigious awards in the global entertainment industry, recognizing the best actors, directors, and craftsmen who released films during the previous calendar year. Though the annual Oscars ceremony remains a widely tracked barometer of quality in the movie industry, the Academy has come under fire in recent years for a glaring lack of diversity among nominees throughout its history, a problem that generated the #OscarsSoWhite campaign and backlash in 2016. Since then, the Oscars have taken incremental steps to be more inclusive, with Moonlight winning Best Picture in 2017 and Parasite sweeping several awards last year serving as milestones in that regard.
Like every other corner of the film industry, the Oscars have been forced to adjust to a new world ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic. When it became clear that movie theater closures would be long term, the Academy extended the eligibility timeline for movies to compete from the usual December 31 cutoff to February 28, 2021, around the time the actual telecast is typically held. The organization subsequently delayed the 2021 Oscars ceremony two months to April, and it looks for now like that will be the last compromise the Academy will make.
A representative from both the Academy and ABC, which owns the broadcast rights, told Variety they plan to go full steam ahead with a live in-person ceremony. An awards publicist also commented that Academy reps have already done walkthroughs of the longtime Dolby Theatre venue to determine how an in-person event could be pulled off. However, it's not yet clear what safety protocols will be implemented to make it happen, or how many attendees will ultimately be allowed in the 3,400-seat auditorium.
The Academy's decision feels bold when considering how other awards shows have gone at least partly virtual this year. In September, the hybrid Emmys ceremony allowed nominees to accept awards and give speeches over Zoom. Still, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association-run Golden Globes also appear to be sticking to an in-person event, which they announced would be hosted by Amy Poehler and Tina Fey. Other upcoming shows on the calendar, such as the BAFTAs and SAG Awards, have yet to make any concrete announcements regarding a potential switch to virtual.
It would seem wise for the Academy to follow the recent Emmys ceremony's hybrid format, especially since many contending actors this year like Anthony Hopkins and Meryl Streep make up an older and high-risk group. That being said, the pandemic may end up being the last nail in the coffin for the Oscars, whose growing obsolescence has already been exacerbated by last year's lowest-ever ratings. An in-person ceremony would likely be met with severe backlash and perhaps an even more severe lack of attendance, leaving audiences to wonder exactly what they should watch the 2021 Oscars for if not to hang out with a room full of movie stars for a few hours.