Next year's Oscars have been postponed by eight weeks to April 25 after the coronavirus pandemic shuttered movie theaters and wreaked havoc on Hollywood's release calendar, the Academy said Monday.

With many studio blockbusters and indie arthouse movies forced to push back their release dates until theaters reopen, the cut-off date for Oscar-eligible films has also been extended by two months, to the end of February.

"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 CEO Dawn Hudson in a statement.

The movie industry's biggest night was originally scheduled for February 28, 2021.

Monday's move was prompted by concerns that a field consisting only of films released in 2020 would not be as broad or competitive as in previous years.

Most US movie theatres remain closed, and film productions have ground to a halt, with fears mounting of a second wave of COVID-19 cases.

Productions slowly restarting in the coming weeks as lockdown restrictions ease will now have two extra months to finish without having to sacrifice their Oscar hopes.

The delay also boosts hopes that the 93rd Academy Awards can remain a live, star-studded ceremony, rather than shifting to a "virtual" presentation.

"We find ourselves in uncharted territory this year and will continue to work with our partners at the Academy to ensure next year's show is a safe and celebratory event," said Karey Burke, president of ABC Entertainment, which will broadcast the show in the United States.

The Oscars have been postponed before -- after Los Angeles flooded in 1938, Martin Luther King Jr's assassination in 1968 and the shooting of President Ronald Reagan in 1981 -- but never by more than a week.

The Academy -- seen as the apex body of the Hollywood film industry -- had already eased some eligibility rules in April, allowing movies that skip the big screen and appear on streaming platforms to contend for Oscars this year.

Oscars postponed by two months
No decision has been taken on whether the 2021 Oscars will be a live ceremony or a 'virtual' presentation. Photo: GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / DAVID MCNEW

The Oscars are the grand finale of a movie award season starting in earnest with the Golden Globes in early January.

Immediately following the Academy's announcement, Britain's BAFTAs -- which typically take place shortly before the Oscars -- were postponed to April 11.

The change "acknowledges the impact of the global pandemic and accommodates an extended eligibility period," BAFTA said in a statement to AFP.

Other film award shows are widely expected to announce similar delays.

Academy events including the Governors Awards -- where honorary Oscars are presented to industry veterans -- and a ceremony for scientific and technical were also postponed.

The much-delayed Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, previously scheduled to open in Los Angeles this December, will now open next April.

"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," said the Academy statement.

It added: "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."

Meanwhile, television's Primetime Emmys ceremony is still scheduled to take place in September, with discussions over format ongoing.

The Television Academy said Monday its Creative Arts Emmys -- dozens of technical awards, usually handed out the weekend before the main Emmys -- will be replaced with a "virtual event."

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