The team behind the Oscars has touted that this Sunday’s ceremony — the first during the COVID-19 pandemic, following 2020’s February ceremony — will “feel like a film” rather than a television event. We still don’t quite know what that means, but as of today, we do know that the 2021 Oscars will also count as a film production in Los Angeles, meaning audience members won’t have to wear masks on-air. Thirteen months into a pandemic! Variety first reported the news, which was announced during an April 19 Zoom meeting for nominees and other team members. Per the meeting, attendees will need to wear masks when they are off-camera, like during commercials, and the max audience capacity will be 170 people, with members rotating in between breaks. For nominees and guests to attend the ceremony, which is taking place at Union Station and Dolby Theatre, they’ll need to clear three COVID tests along with a temperature check on the day of the event. Variety previously reported in March that the Union Station portion of the event would “likely be an open-air production.”
The Oscars wouldn’t be the first live awards show to go largely maskless, after last November’s Country Music Association Awards, which were widely criticized for the move. The in-person Grammys took place largely outdoors and masked in Los Angeles in March, while just yesterday, on April 18, the Academy of Country Music Awards welcomed distanced, masked audiences across multiple Nashville venues. In an April 18 press conference, as Variety also noted, Oscars producer Steven Soderbergh said masks had “a very important role in the story” of the film that will be this year’s Oscars. Just not, you know, the important role of preventing the spread of COVID-19.