As studios halt productions and movie theaters close their doors, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is facing some hard choices as it nears its annual meeting (usually the end of April) about what the future of next year’s Oscars may be.
With huge tentpole films like the live action Mulan, Black Widow and A Quiet Place Part II moving off the schedule to unknown dates, we could see months before any new releases are back in theaters. Film festivals are also falling by the wayside, with SXSW canceled, Tribeca and, as of today, the Cannes Film Festival looking to postponement instead of outright dropping.
Universal Pictures was the first to act, making a handful of its current films – The Hunt, The Invisible Man and Emma. (from Focus Features) available to stream digitally as 48-hour rentals beginning March 20. They also announced the April 10 release of Trolls: World Tour would become streaming only, at the same rate. Warner Bros quickly following, moving up the digital release of Birds of Prey and The Way Back on March 24.
The 92nd Oscars were moved up two weeks and aired live on Sunday, February 9 where Parasite made history, becoming the first non-English language film to win Best Picture. Had the original Oscars date been held in late February, we very likely could have seen them canceled for only the second time ever. The first was in 1933 where a bank crisis pushed eligibility to a 17-month period and folded them into the 1934 Oscars.
On March 11, the Academy sent a letter to its members that organizers of the Academy Museum had “decided to postpone all screenings, events, tours, public programs and public access to our library and archive, effective immediately, and through the month of March.”
“The Academy is focused on helping our staff, our members, and the industry safely navigate through this global health and economic crisis,” an Academy spokesperson said Thursday in a statement. “We are in the process of evaluating all aspects of this uncertain landscape and what changes may need to be made. We are committed to being nimble and forward-thinking as we discuss what is best for the future of the industry and will make further announcements in the coming days.”
Ahead for the Academy is deciding on what’s the next best step. They could make a single year exception for streaming-only films if theaters remain closed. They could extend the date of the Oscars out to later next year. It wouldn’t be the first time; they’ve moved the date due to unforeseen circumstances before: 1938 for one week in when L.A. was hit by severe flooding; 1968 for two days in the wake of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King; and in 1981 for one day after the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan.
The rules of the Oscars is that for a film to be eligible it must be released theatrically in a Los Angeles County commercial theater for a seven day period. The 93rd Oscars are set for February 28, 2021.