What's more significant: the inauguration of a new U.S. president or the announcement of the year's Oscar nominees?

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences decided politics takes precedence, announcing Monday that it has delayed the nominations announcement by two days.

Oscar nominees are usually revealed on a Tuesday about four weeks before the big show, which is typically held the last Sunday in February. For 2009, though, the targeted Tuesday — Jan. 20 — is Inauguration Day.

So the 81st annual Oscar nominees will be revealed Thursday, Jan. 22, and the Academy Awards will be presented Sunday, Feb. 22 — the earliest Oscars ever.

"It didn't make any sense for us to try to compete with (the inauguration) from a news point of view," academy Executive Administrator Ric Robertson told The Associated Press.

But the change will put the squeeze on the rest of the calendar, Robertson said.

"Ballots are due Jan. 12, and nominations are announced 10 days later, so that's getting pretty close to the minimum," he said. "The most critical path is the balloting-voting process. Since we remain committed, for security reasons, to paper balloting, and all PricewaterhouseCoopers tabulating is done by hand, it's not done by computers. ... They can turn things around quickly but they still need time."

Delaying the nominations also tightens production time for the Oscar telecast, since the show's makeup depends largely on the nominees. Producers of the ceremony usually have four and a half weeks to prepare. In 2009, it will be one month to the day.

"I know that whoever produces the show would like to have more time," Robertson said, "and this will be two days less than they've had in past years."

The 2009 presidential inauguration isn't the first event that prompted the academy to alter its calendar. The Oscar show was moved from the last Sunday in February in 2006 so it wouldn't conflict with the closing ceremony of the Winter Olympics, Robertson said.

"We have to look at other major global events," he said.

The academy's board of governors decided in 2004 to move the Oscar show from late March to late February to combat "awards fatigue" and "to maintain a higher level of interest and excitement," Robertson said.

Key dates for the 2009 Academy Awards are:

— Dec. 26, 2008: Nominations ballots mailed.

— Jan. 12: Nominations ballots due.

— Jan. 22: Nominees announced.

— Jan. 28: Final ballots mailed.

— Feb. 17: Final ballots due.

— Feb. 22: 81st annual Academy Awards.