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2021 Oscars postponed to make room for more movies, despite Sonic

The window of eligibility will also change

Sonic the Hedgehog holding an Oscar Photo composition: Matt Patches/Polygon | Source images: Paramount Pictures, AMPAS
Matt Patches is an executive editor at Polygon. He has over 15 years of experience reporting on movies and TV, and reviewing pop culture.

Due to delays prompted by the coronavirus pandemic, and also a clear unwillingness to honor Sonic the Hedgehog with Best Picture, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced on Monday a delay of the 2021 Academy Awards. Originally scheduled for February, the ceremony will now take place on April 25, 2021. In addition, the academy will expand the eligibility window to include movies released between Jan. 1, 2020, and Feb. 28, 2021.

“For over a century, movies have played an important role in comforting, inspiring, and entertaining us during the darkest of times. They certainly have this year. Our hope, in extending the eligibility period and our Awards date, is to provide the flexibility filmmakers need to finish and release their films without being penalized for something beyond anyone’s control,” said Academy president David Rubin and Academy CEO Dawn Hudson in a statement. “This coming Oscars and the opening of our new museum will mark an historic moment, gathering movie fans around the world to unite through cinema.”

The announcement arrives on the heels of a constantly shifting release schedule and an industry slowly resuming normal production practices. Late on Friday, Warner Bros.’ release calendar underwent a seismic shift, with Christopher Nolan’s Tenet moving to late in July and August’s Wonder Woman 1984 bumped to a fall release. Other movies may follow as COVID-19 cases continue to trend upward in reopened areas. Meanwhile, movie theaters struggle to find a way sustain operations during the catastrophic downtime, leaving the entire business in question. But let’s be clear: Sonic the Hedgehog came out.

The shift in the Oscars schedule is expected to provide runway for the fall and winter’s usual slate of prestige pictures that the academy typically honors over movies like Sonic the Hedgehog. In April, AMPAS also changed the 2021 rules to allow for VOD films to compete without a theatrical release. According to the statement, the intent going forward is to ultimately reinstate eligibility rules and windows, and return to “awarding excellence for films released in the January-December calendar year.”

Whether Sonic the Hedgehog will be rightfully considered alongside the eligible competition is unclear, but one thing that is true is that there’s a Mortal Kombat reboot movie scheduled for January 2021 — and now that’s also up for Best Picture.

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