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Indie Spirits Move Off Oscar Weekend: 2021 Ceremony Set for Three Weeks Before Academy Awards

After long serving as the freewheeling, fun-loving lead-in to the Oscars, the Indie Spirits are looking to carve out a new space.

Katie Aselton and Mark Duplass

The Film Independent Spirits Awards blue carpet

Andrew Walker/Variety

The awards season keeps shifting: the Film Independent Spirit Awards will move away from its usual pre-Oscars ceremony date to one three weeks earlier. The 37th annual Indie Spirits will now take place on Sunday, March 6, with the Oscars following on Sunday, March 27.

Deadline notes “this is a huge break with tradition and comes as the Spirit Awards look to get more traction with the viewing public, as well as exert more possible influence on potential Oscar winners as this new date falls the day before the Oscar nominees luncheon and also before final balloting begins for the Academy on March 17.”

Still, it’s not the first break in tradition for the awards which, last year, opted to air a full three days before the Oscars, thanks to a televised virtual event hosted by Melissa Villaseñor. Traditionally, the awards play out on the Saturday afternoon before the Oscars on a beach in Santa Monica. This year, things will be quite different. Deadline notes that “the show, usually taped in the afternoon for broadcast later that night, plans to go completely live and start at 5pm PT (8pm ET) from its usual Santa Monica Beach tented locale. Though it has aired on IFC for several years Film Independent is not contractually obligated  to continue with that deal, and in fact sources tell me they are open to negotiating a new deal with another broadcaster or streamer that might be interested in taking it on as it aims to forge new paths.”

“The Spirit Awards have always championed diverse, unique, independent storytelling; shifting earlier in the awards season will allow us to shine an even brighter light on the films and shows we are excited to celebrate,” Josh Welsh, president of Film Independent, said in a statement

Deadline also shares that “heavyweight insiders in the independent film world approached Film Independent executives including Welsh and lobbied for what they feel is a huge opportunity to increase the visibility, ratings, and importance of the Spirits. The feeling is the Spirits already is a more diverse and younger awards show, but have been handicapped by not being during the voting period. Insiders tell me they think there is a massive opportunity to essentially create a ‘new’ awards show for viewers, and that is really what is behind this, a major opportunity to level up the Spirit Awards in terms of visibility for the public and industry. I am told it is hoped to be a much more viewer friendly experience, not attempting to replace anything but trying to create an awards show for a diverse, newer generation and wider audience.”

With the ongoing issues with the HFPA, which will not enjoy a televised Golden Globes ceremony this year, there is certainly an opening for more televised awards shows. The Indie Spirits, though an unexpected choice, would make a good one, thanks to its generally fun-leaning spirit, coupled with an increased correlation between its winners and Oscar picks.

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