The last time the world saw an award show where social distancing was not an issue and large audiences came together and celebrated was at the 2020 Oscars.

It was only a little over a month after Parasite won best picture at the Dolby Theatre last February that the pandemic hit and a new normal in award ceremonies emerged.

Just weeks after last year’s Oscars, awards show producers had to adjust quickly to a world where audiences could no longer be a part of future shows. They also had to make sure everyone involved, including stage workers, attendees, and award nominees and recipients, would be safe from the virus. 

On top of all of that, producers had to additionally do this in a way that still entertained viewers who would watch the ceremony on their televisions and personal devices. 

Vaccinations have been underway for weeks and many wonder if now award ceremonies could go back to how they were before the pandemic.  Almost every awards show before this year’s Oscars has already committed to a virtual ceremony.

Could the 2021 Oscars finally have an “in person” audience again when it takes place at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles next month? 

Millions can help but wonder, especially after the Academy had moved its annual telecast back two months to April 25, 2021.

According to sources, the Academy is hoping that theaters would be open again in the spring and the Dolby Theatre is where the show has been for the past twenty years.

“The Academy has done a walkthrough of the Dolby recently to see all the multiple options,” says an awards publicist familiar with the situation. This includes figuring out how many people they will allow inside the 3,400-seat theatre.

Let’s face it. Virtual ceremonies are not really working, unfortunately.

This year’s Golden Globes which took place in February had its ratings fall to an all-time low for NBC. Viewship hit a 13-year low, capturing only 6.9 million viewers, a 63% drop from the 18.4 million who tuned in to 2020′s telecast, according to Nielsen data. It had the lowest rating ever in the key demographic of ages 18-49.

The 2020 “virtual” Emmy Awards telecast, which was carried by ABC, also hit an all-time TV ratings low at 6.1 million U.S. viewers. This was a decline from last year’s 6.9 million viewers. Most nominees watching the show last year were doing it over Zoom and from home.

The 2021 Grammys took place over this past weekend and also hit a historic low with 8.8 million viewers for CBS. The show dropped 60% among 18-49s in fast affiliate results.

The Hollywood Reporter recently spoke to producers for the 2020 MTV VMAs, E! People’s Choice Awards, Billboard Music Awards, and American Music Awards about how they put together their COVID-19-era productions.

The first priority the producers had emphasized was “safety comes first” and making sure everyone was protected.

The Academy has said in a statement, “In this unique year that has asked so much of so many, the Academy is determined to present an Oscars like none other, while prioritizing the public health and safety of all those who will participate. To create the in-person show our global audience wants to see, while adapting to the requirements of the pandemic, the ceremony will broadcast live from multiple locations, including the landmark Dolby Theatre. We look forward to sharing more details soon.”

We can only hope that the 2021 Oscars ceremony will avoid the curse of the virtual pandemic awards shows and be able to save its ratings.  Especially since this year’s nominees are pretty diverse and exciting. 

Seventy women received a total 76 nominations, according to the Academy. This was a record for a given year!

Two women, Emerald Fennell and Chloé Zhao, were nominated in the directing category in the same year for the first time, and Zhao is the first woman of color to be nominated in the category.

“I let out a little yelp when I saw the nominees,” said Nell Minow, a film critic Lee Isaac Chung’s “Minari” and Chloé Zhao’s “Nomadland” had both been nominated.

“We’re seeing a lot more diversity partly because the normative, white male, big blockbusters had to step aside last year,” Minow said.

Three Black men were also been nominated in the best supporting actor category. Leslie Odom Jr. for “One Night in Miami” and Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield for “Judas and the Black Messiah.”

Mank,” Netflix’s black and white drama about screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz has also received ten nods this year.

Regardless of whether this year’s Oscars are in person again, at least we will be treated to a showcase of unique films and actors that may never had the chance of being nominated before the pandemic.