And just like that, we're back!  With legitimate awards season news to wax over.

It wasn't completely unexpected, but it was still jarring to read the announcement that next year's Academy Awards won't take place until March 7, 2010.  Figuratively, that's two weeks later than this year's February 22 show. 

The reason for the delay has to do with the Winter Olympics beginning a tad later than usual,   In 2006, the Olympics forced the Oscars to move to a March 5 date.  Of course, before 2004, the big show was always held in late March.  After years of fatigue because of such long and intense award season campaigns, the show was moved to late February.  It also was supposed to help the studio save money on campaigns which didn't really happen.  Studios shot themselves in the foot by beginning the whole scenario earlier and earlier until legitimate contenders were packing October's release slate instead of the usual traffic jam in December.

The bigger surprise is how this move affects the overall awards season calendar.  Here's a quick rundown of the new dates thanks to the AMPAS.

- Tuesday, December 1, 2009: Official Screen Credits forms due
- Monday, December 28, 2009: Nominations ballots mailed
- Saturday, January 23, 2010: Nominations polls close 5 p.m. PT
- Tuesday, February 2, 2010: Nominations announced 5:30 a.m. PT,

- Wednesday, February 10, 2010: Final ballots mailed
- Monday, February 15, 2010: Nominees Luncheon
- Saturday, February 20, 2010: Scientific and Technical Achievement Awards presentation
- Tuesday, March 2, 2010: Final polls close 5 p.m. PT
- Sunday, March 7, 2010: 82nd Annual Academy Awards presentation

Important dates?  Nominations aren't due until the 23rd of January.  Final polls won't close until March 2.  Even if most o the contenders move their release dates to mid-November forward, we're talking about a very, very intense first two months of 2010 for Oscar campaigning.  Additionally, this could make  the results of the Golden Globes (still scheduled for January), SAG Awards and the BAFTA Awards even more influential than in previous years.

Want some more winners?   How about those struggling trades Variety and The Hollywood Reporter?  Along with the popular Oscar section of The Los Angeles Times (that yours truly once worked for), those both the print and online versions of those outlets (assuming paper even exists 8 months from now) should get a nice bump by the extension of the season.  See? The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is all about helping the economy too!



Who might loose in all this?  It may amount to only two extra weeks, but that could be enough for studios nervous about their prestige pics to skip the trifecta of festivals that traditionally kicks off awards season: Venice, Telluride and Toronto.  And considering the importance of the Hollywood machine at those events, that could be very dire news.

Don't be surprised to see some release date shuffling due to this announcement.  Fox Searchlight currently has "Amelia" on Oct. 23.  Is that too early now?  Does Paul Greengrass' "Green Zone" open limited to avoid the December rush?  The news will certainly make distributors big and small take a second look at their release patterns.

As for AMPAS, the biggest remaining question on Oscar's agenda?  To Hugh or not to Hugh.  Will Jackman be back or not?  The host was very popular with the rank and file and those in attendance at last month's show, but critics gave him mixed reviews. The clock is ticking AMPAS.  You only have 8 or 9 months to figure that one out.  Ah, the drama stirs even in the offseason.  In the meantime, it's time to get ready for....the MTV Movie Awards!

Aren't you excited?