Academy Awards 2021: What COVID-19 Safety Protocols Will the Ceremony Have?

COVID-19 has upended the world of entertainment and forced people everywhere to innovate and find new ways to reach audiences in a safe way. The 2021 Academy Awards are the latest entertainment industry mainstay to face putting on a show in the coronavirus era.

An Academy Award winner's hand holding an Oscar statue in the press room during the 90th Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood & Highland Center on March 4, 2018 in Hollywood, California
An Academy Award winner’s hand holding an Oscar statue | Kurt Krieger/Corbis via Getty Images

The 2021 Academy Awards were postponed due to COVID-19

The 2021 Academy Awards are airing on Sunday, April 25 — two months later than the ceremony was originally scheduled.

The pandemic had a devastating effect on the movie industry, from studios being forced to pause their productions to movie theaters unable to attract large audiences.

This forced the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to tweak the rules for the 2021 Academy Awards given how different the 2020 movie season was: films released on streaming services weren’t required to also be screened in theaters, and the eligibility period for films was extended.

Oscars statues
Overview of Oscar statues on display at “Meet the Oscars” at the Time Warner Center on February 25, 2010 in New York City | Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images

The 2021 Academy Awards are happening in person

In 2020, award shows including the Emmys opted for a largely virtual celebration, with actors and other creatives in the TV industry attending via video. But with the increased availability of vaccines and knowledge of what COVID safety entails, the 2021 Academy Awards are pressing forward with an in-person ceremony.

The ceremony will take place mainly in Los Angeles’ Union Station, which will be decked out for the occasion to celebrate Hollywood’s biggest night. Attendees will also be at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. The model is not unlike that of the Grammy Awards, which successfully put on a COVID-era show in March 2021 with a hybrid indoor/outdoor ceremony.

Oscar statue
An Oscar statue on display at the Time Warner Center in New York February 25, 2010 during the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences “Meet the Oscars, New York” exhibition presented by Kodak | Timothy A. Clary/AFP via Getty Images

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The 2021 Oscars ceremony will have strict COVID-19 regulations

In addition to the two sites in Los Angeles, attendees based outside the US will have the opportunity to attend remotely from various “hubs” in cities including London and Paris.

According to Variety, the Academy announced more specifics about the COVID protocol in a Zoom meeting with studios. A temperature check will be mandatory to gain entry into the event, and attendees must also show at least three negative COVID tests in the days leading up to the ceremony. The red carpet has also been modified to include less reporters and ample space between the nominees and the journalists.

Because the ceremony is being treated as a TV production, masks are not required for people on camera. However, when guests are not on camera, such as during commercial breaks, they will be asked to wear masks.

The Academy also revealed that audience capacity will be limited to 170 people. In addition, attendees will be rotated in and out of the ceremony, with each nominee receiving a personalized itinerary of what times they’ll be rotated in and out.