People are eager to return to the old normal, and the fate of awards shows is not the top priority, but it is a concern. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences (AMPAS) on April 28 addressed the question of eligibility in a time of coronavirus, and the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. did the same. But the question remains about the fate of ceremonies, no matter when the world opens up again.
In the history of major awards, no show was ever canceled, but adjustments were occasionally needed. To paraphrase Tolstoy, happy kudocasts are all alike; every crisis-stricken award show is stricken in its own way.
Nobody expects a dramatic change in the upcoming kudocasts. But as Monty Python reminded us, nobody expected the Spanish Inquisition either.
The award for the most beleaguered ceremony goes to the 53rd annual Emmys. It was scheduled for Sept. 16, 2001, but the Academy of TV Arts & Sciences and CBS moved it to October, then shifted it to November.
On Sept. 12, 2001, the day after the 9/11 attacks, Variety’s package of stories included the news that the 53rd Emmys “have been postponed indefinitely.” Within a few days, Hollywood realized that even a week’s delay was not enough.
On Sept. 17, Michael Schneider reported that the date was moved to Oct. 7 and added.
A few days before the new target date, ATAS took out an ad in Variety and promised a secure environment and a “lower-key tone.”
However, on Oct. 8, Variety chronicled Sunday’s last-minute change.
On Oct. 7, host Ellen DeGeneres and the production team were rehearsing when they got word that the US and the UK. “had started military action in Afghanistan … by noon, it was official: The Emmys had been postponed again. But this time, probably for good.”
Ten days later, Schneider reported the Emmys would take place Nov. 4, with Gary Smith to produce, after Don Mischer dropped out.
During the Writers Guild of America strike (Nov. 5, 2007-Feb. 12, 2008), WGA gave waivers for the scripted SAG Awards and Indie Spirit Awards, but in mid-December announced no waivers for the Golden Globes or Oscars.
On Jan. 8, 2008, Cynthia Littleton reported that the kudos had been downscaled to an hour-long news conference at the Beverly Hilton.
The Academy Awards scaled down their ceremonies during World War II, and postponed the event three times: In 1938, 1968 and 1981.
The first delay occurred for the 10th annual Academy Awards, scheduled for March 3, 1938. But rains in Los Angeles were so heavy that flood waters rose to four feet at Paramount studios.
Even after the US entered World War II in December 1941, AMPAS didn’t cancel any rites. The 14th Academy Awards took place on Feb. 26, 1942. The following day, Variety reported “it was staged under wraps and a great part of its sartorial glamor was missing.”
The show scheduled for April 8, 1968, was postponed for two days after the April 4 assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. And for the first and only time, the Governors Ball was canceled.
When the show aired April 10, AMPAS president Gregory Peck opened with a tribute to King.
13 years later, the Oscars program scheduled for March 30, 1981, was delayed after the assassination attempt on President Reagan.
According to Variety on March 31, Oscars had planned a salute to Reagan, including his taped remarks. But the shooting caused a 24-hour delay.
The day after the ceremony, April 1, AMPAS president Fay Kanin told Variety that she, producer Norman Jewison and their teams “had to move all these mountains” to postpone, including reconfirmation of nominees and presenters, contacting agents, talent and film producers all over the country, not to mention negotiations with ABC, the venue and its staff.
Over the years, AMPAS has made tweaks to eligibility requirements due to coronavirus pandemic.
On April 28, Variety reported that the Academy’s the board of governors approved a temporary hold on the requirement that a film needs a seven-day theatrical run in a commercial theater in Los Angeles County to qualify for the Oscars.
Instead, films will be allowed to be released digitally without playing in theaters. However, that doesn’t mean any movie premiering on a streaming service is eligible for Oscar gold. To be considered, the streamed film must have already had a planned theatrical release. The film must also be made available on the Academy Screening Room member-only streaming site within 60 days of the film’s streaming or VOD release.
Once movie theaters are allowed to reopen, the seven-day window will once again be required for eligibility. Pics that have already streamed will not have to then be released in theaters. When theaters reopen, the Academy will also expand the number of qualifying theaters beyond Los Angeles County to include venues in New York City, the Bay Area, Chicago, Miami and Atlanta.
The Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. on March 26 announced that it has loosened eligibility requirements and “will continue to assess the impact of the COVID-19 epidemic,” saying it “may extend these suspensions of the Golden Globe award rules.”
*Tim Gray is awards editor of features and senior VP for Variety. He writes about awards contenders as well as vintage Hollywood.