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The Oscars: Here's What's Happening After a Strange 2020

1/3/2021 • 4 min read

Usually, around this time of the year, the studios and mini-majors have begun releasing their Oscar hopeful movies into jam-packed theaters nationwide. But 2020 has been different. With a number of theaters still closed and movie output slowed to a trickle, the Academy Awards are taking a different and more creative approach to the ceremony honoring this year's movies.

The new Oscar rules include changes to a number of aspects and rearrangements to the overall timeline. So, with all of this in mind, here are the latest updates on this year’s Academy Awards.

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The Awards Take Place Later Than Usual

First up: It can be confusing to talk about "this year's Oscars," since the ceremony to honor a year's movies takes place in the following calendar year. So when we talk about this year's Oscars, we mean the ceremony to honor 2020 movies, even though that ceremony will take place in 2021.

The Academy Awards telecast is typically in February or March. In recent years, the date has taken place earlier in the year, so as to not feel like it happens far behind other awards. For 2021, however, the schedule has been pushed far later than usual. As of right now, the Oscar telecast is set to take place on April 25, 2021, in front of a live audience at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood. Whether or not these plans turn out to be extremely optimistic remains to be seen. Just have your tux ready by the end of April.

There Are Some New Rules

There's always some real fine print from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences when it comes to what can be nominated for an Oscar and why, so here's the latest.

First off, this year’s ceremony will be one category short. Best Sound Mixing and Best Sound Effects Editing will be consolidated into a single category, Best Sound. (Which makes weird sense since so many movies that people have seen this year have been heard through headphones or living room speakers.)

Additionally, there are new parameters for Best Original Score. For a score to be considered for an Oscar it must have at least 60% original music, and for a franchise film or sequel, the score must feature 80% original music. (Which is notable, since many sequels use preexisting cues and/or musical motifs.) Also, the Best International Feature Film will, for the first time, be voted on by the entire body of Academy voters. Pretty neat right?

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Eligible Movies Can Also Be Released Later

The theatrical release cutoff for movies to be eligible for Academy Awards has long been the last day of December, with most big prestige movies coming out no later than Christmas Day. (Some movies would be released only in Los Angeles and New York for this cutoff, with nationwide rollouts happening in January.)

This year, the eligibility window has been extended, just like everything else. Now movies can be released up until the end of February (February 28) and still be eligible for the big awards. So a movie like THE LITTLE THINGS — which is notable for teaming three Oscar winners as the primary cast — or JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH (above) will be eligible. There is also the possibility of some late-breaking surprises turning up, as well.

More Movies, Released in More Ways

Another long-standing stipulation, even for the smallest movie, is that films must play in New York and Los Angeles theaters for two weeks to be considered. (Hence the release pattern mentioned above.) Given the circumstances of 2020, this is also no longer the case. Instead, if a movie was supposed to open in theaters but was instead relegated to streaming or paid video-on-demand, it is still eligible.

So, for example, SOUL was originally intended to premiere at Cannes and debut in theaters in June (and later November). It even had a splashy premiere as part of the London Film Festival in October. And guess what? It can still be nominated for Best Picture and Best Animated Feature at the Academy Awards. So just because you wound up any specific 2020 movie at home doesn’t mean that it’s completely out of the running. But if it was always meant to premiere at home, then it is sadly not Oscar-eligible.

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The Academy Hired Some Big-Name Producers

The Academy always makes news with its choice of Oscar producers, and this year is no different — but the specific people are surprising. Jesse Collins, an awards show veteran who has been tapped to also produce the Grammys and the halftime Super Bowl show next year (starring UNCUT GEMS costar The Weeknd) is the cornerstone. That's not terribly surprising. But Collins will be joined by movie producer Stacey Sher, who has worked on everything from THE FISHER KING to DJANGO UNCHAINED. And the real curveball is that Sher will be joined by her cohort from CONTAGION (pictured above): The legendary filmmaker Steven Soderbergh.

Because Soderbergh is one of the most creative, innovative, and hard-working filmmakers of all time (a few years ago he released an entire movie via a branching mobile app), we cannot wait to see what kind of ideas he adds to the mix. Bring it on.


See more movies coming to Cinemark at the end of the year!


All images courtesy of Searchlight Pictures, Universal Pictures.

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