The Academy has just announced via Twitter key dates in next year's Oscar season, and it looks like the next batch of Oscar nominees will be spending a little extra time on the circuit than normal.

The nominations announcement will happen on Tuesday, January 15, according to AMPAS. That immediately caught my eye. Given the usual order of things, you'd have expected the announcement to land on 1/22 or even 1/29 instead. The last four years the nominees have been unveiled on 1/24 (2012), 1/25 (2011), 2/2 (2010) and 1/22 (2009, an unusual Thursday announcement).

Why does this matter? Well, given that the Oscars will be held on February 24 of next year, a typical date, that makes for nearly six weeks of phase two action. Usually it's closer to five.

I don't know if there's some programming issue that kept the Academy away from the latter two weeks of January for their announcement, but I almost wonder if there's some testing going on here, inching things back into January even more, laying the foundation for bringing the ceremony itself closer to the start of the year, etc. But I'm just spit-balling.

Perhaps the Academy wants to provide more time for voters to see all the films? But really, given the great narrowing of contenders that occurs in a given film awards season, more time to see the films in phase two isn't really necessary. Once everything's been vetted for them, they pretty much see all the nominees. Or perhaps the Academy is responding to a lower number of ballots making it in on time. Again, just guessing.

Then again, maybe it's simply to set a wider window to increase exposure for the the ceremony and offer up a nice, healthy build-up to the show. I don't know. But Sundance press will be happy to hear that the announcement will drop two days before the fest, rather than somewhere in the middle, per usual.

The Oscars moved to late-February beginning with the 2003 season after being embedded in March with a lengthy phase one and two for years. They dipped back into March twice since then, for the 2005 and 2009 seasons (due to the 2006 and 2010 Winter Olympics, respectively). That extended phase two by two weeks in each case, but this is extra time on the other side of that window, so, interesting.

In any case, mark your calendars. Nominees will be announced January 15, 2013 and the 85th annual Academy Awards will take place at the hopefully-re-named-by-then Theatre formerly known as the Kodak on Sunday, February 24, 2013.

For year-round entertainment news and awards season commentary follow @kristapley on Twitter.

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