The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced it would delay the Oscars ceremony by nearly two months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The awards night -- which was initially scheduled for February 28, 2021 -- will now be held on April 25 next year at the Dolby Theater.

The move was the first time the filmdom's biggest night was rescheduled in over four decades, CNN reports. In a joint statement, Academy President David Rubin and Academy CEO Dawn Hudson said moving the ceremony will allow filmmakers to finish their work.

The Academy also extended the eligibility window for films. For next year's ceremony, the new window will be extended until the end of February. Submission deadlines were also pushed back.

For the upcoming awards night, feature films bearing a release date between the beginning of January 2020, and the end of February 2021 are qualified. For this year, the Academy has also made an exception and decided to include movies that premiered on streaming platforms.

Diversity and Inclusion

Apart from delays, the Academy announced its decision to expand its diversity and inclusion within the industry after it faced criticism over a lack of representation, NPR reports.

The initiative, named "Academy Aperture 2025," would include Oscar films and nominees to meet specific diversity and inclusion criteria.

The Academy will create a task force of leaders in the film industry to help develop new representation standards for the Oscars. The new rules will be effective on July 31 and are expected to encourage equitable hiring practices.

The Best Picture category will also be expanded to ten films beginning 2022 in the 94th Oscars. The move aims to maximize the diversity of movies nominated for the top category.

Whoopi Goldberg is set to lead a series of panels called Academy Dialogue designed to focus on racist tropes and harmful stereotypes in Hollywood-produced films. The conversations will lead to systemic changes in casting, screenwriting, directing, and financing to provide opportunities to women and people of color.

Previous Delays

The award ceremony has been postponed only four times in Oscars history, according to USA Today.

In 1938, the Academy delayed the awarding after Los Angeles suffered massive flooding. Two storm systems swept through South California and inundated parts of L.A, Orange, and Riverside. The storm killed more than 100 people and destroyed 5,600 homes in Los Angeles County, causing an estimated $70 million in damages.

In 1968, the Oscars were postponed after Martin Luther King Jr., a Baptist minister and civil rights activist for African-Americans, was struck by a sniper's bullet in the neck while standing on the second-floor balcony of a Memphis hotel. He was rushed to the hospital where he was pronounced dead at 39.

 In 1981, a deranged drifter identified as 25-year-old John Hinckley Jr. shot President Ronald Reagan in the chest following a labor meeting at the Washington Hilton Hotel. The suspect also hit three of the president's attendants -- one in the head, one in the neck, and another on the side of the body. The Academy delayed the broadcast for 24 hours just four hours before it was set to begin.

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