Prelude to the Oscar prosaic

Academy officials breathed something of a sigh of relief Monday as the prelude to Hollywood’s biggest annual event went off uneventfully.

With little controversy surrounding this year’s crop of Oscar hopefuls, protesters that tend to be drawn to the limelight were scarce.

The crowd, many of whom piled into the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion grandstand Sunday night, was loud, but well behaved.

Perhaps the biggest headache for Academy staffers was the throng of media from around the world pressed into a narrow space along the red-carpeted walkway and later into tight press rooms.

“There are too many media people and not enough room,” said a harried Bob Werden, an Academy spokesman.

The only organized protest came from the religious right. On one corner, a handful of placard-carrying protesters chastised Hollywood’s penchant for sex and violence, with signs reading “Down With Dirty Movies” and “Movie Scum: Repent.” On another corner, anti-abortion protesters carried signs comparing the Holocaust depicted in “Schindler’s List” to current abortion practices.

No arrests were made and one police officer, noting the large presence of L.A.’s finest, said, “It’s overkill, but it’s always like this.”

There was the usual Oscar fare. Surrounding the theater, vendors were hawking $ 10 Oscar T-shirts, or two for $ 15.

And flying above in the crystal clear sky, along with police and TV helicopters, was a small plane carrying a banner that read, “World’s Funniest Movie Script Needs Producer” with a phone number for those interested.

Most of the pre-show events went off like clockwork. At exactly 3 p.m., dozens of seat fillers, wearing “seat filler” credentials over their tuxedos and ball gowns, filed into the theater. Red-jacketed valets lined up with military precision at 3:30. By 4, stars like Anthony Hopkins and James Ingram had already arrived.

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