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An Oscar statue along the red carpet area during preparations for the Academy Awards in Los Angeles, Feb. 27, 2016. Image Credit: NYT

The 94th Academy Awards have a new date, moving to March 27, 2022, a month later than originally planned, the motion picture academy announced Thursday.

The shift would appear to signal that the academy feels the need to put a bit more space between the Oscars and the live sporting events competing for a dwindling number of viewers. The 2022 Beijing Olympics are scheduled to take place from February 4-20, while the 2022 Super Bowl is set for February 13.

The film academy first flagged its 2022 date three years ago, tacitly acknowledging the two events in its planning. But a lot has changed since then. Awards show ratings have been sliding, as has viewership for other live events. This year’s Oscars drew an audience of just 10.4 million, a record low and a 56 per cent drop from the 23.6 million people who watched in 2020.

And while the low ratings could be partly explained by a pandemic year that left movie theatres mostly closed and audiences largely unaware of — and uninterested in — the films and performances earning Oscar nominations, viewership has been eroding for a decade.

The 2010 Oscars, which saw ‘The Hurt Locker’ prevail over ‘Avatar’ for best picture, drew an average of 41.6 million people, with nearly 80 million people watching at least part of the show.

Cord-cutting, streaming and culture wars have made that kind of viewership part of a bygone era.

This year’s Oscars, held April 25, took place two months later than planned, with the film academy extending the eligibility window to February. The 2022 Oscars will return to the traditional Dec. 31 eligibility deadline. Nominations will be announced February 8.

The film academy also confirmed that the 2022 ceremony will return to the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, its home since 2002. (This year’s show shifted to Union Station.) The organisation also added a final note that seems baked into these current times: All dates are subject to change.