Oscar delay may help Kidman, Blanchett

Peter Mitchell
Next year's Oscars ceremony has been pushed back two months, which may help Australian contenders

The Academy Awards ceremony is on the move and it may give a boost to the Oscar hopes of Australian contenders Nicole Kidman, Cate Blanchett, Toni Collette and Sia Furler.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced on Monday the turmoil caused by the COVID-19 pandemic had forced the scheduled February 28, 2021 ceremony to be pushed back to April 30.

"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 penalised for something beyond anyone's control," Academy president David Rubin and Academy chief executive Dawn Hudson said in a statement.

The pandemic shut down film production, forced the closure of cinemas across the globe, postponed film festivals and caused havoc to movie studios' release schedules.

Films traditionally must be released by December 31 to qualify for the Oscars, but the eligibility period has been extended to February 28, 2021 for feature films.

Australia's A-List were among the early favourites for awards before the pandemic, but production delays and changing release dates threatened some campaigns.

Nightmare Alley, starring Blanchett and Collette and directed by Guillermo del Toro, began principal photography in January and production was halted on March 13.

The new Oscar date gives the film a chance to be completed and become Oscar-eligible.

Australian director Andrew Dominik's Blonde, starring Ana de Armas as Marilyn Monroe, had its release pushed back to 2021 when the pandemic hit.

The Academy's ceremony scheduling shift may also give Blonde the time it needs to enter the Oscar race.

The Prom, an adaptation of the Broadway musical and with a cast headed by Kidman and Meryl Streep, reportedly completed principal photography before the pandemic hit.

Australian screenwriter Luke Davies' western drama News of the World, directed by Paul Greengrass and starring Tom Hanks, was scheduled for a Christmas release.

Adelaide-born singer-songwriter Sia is used to dominating music awards shows, but has generated Oscar buzz for writing-directing-producing Music, a film starring Kate Hudson and Maddie Ziegler.

The film was scheduled for release in August.

It was only the fourth time in the Academy Awards' 93-year history the date has been changed: in 1938, due to floods in Los Angeles, in 1968 because of the assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King and in 1981 after the attempted assassination of then-president Ronald Reagan.

The new date for the Oscars is expected to prompt the Golden Globes and other award shows to also reschedule their events.

The British Academy Film Awards moved the dates of its 2021 ceremony from February 14 to April 11 in line with the Oscars decision.

Hollywood movies were last week given the green light to resume production in the Los Angeles area with detailed guidelines on social distancing and frequent testing. However, most are not expected to resume until September.

Hollywood hopes the big movie theatre chains will reopen by late July, when thriller Tenet and Mulan are due to be released.