Acad feeling labor pains at new digs

IATSE agent LaVoise says nonunion workers helping to set up

Whenever someone moves into a new home, there are bound to be headaches.

The latest one for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences is a complaint from IATSE stagehands that compounds ongoing Oscar concerns, such as TV signals, traffic, security and weather.

The press area and the Governors Ball this year were set up by nonunion workers, according to Roy LaVoise, biz agent of IATSE Local 33, which represents stagehands.

The Academy, however, questions his assertions.

LaVoise said that, at the Shrine and the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, these were always union jobs. But since the press area is now at the Renaissance Hotel, which is adjoining Oscar’s new home at Hollywood & Highland, the work is being done by a non-union contractor hired by the hotel.

He said the local had been assured by the L.A. City Council (which approved the roughly $200 million in subsidies and bonds for H&H) that the theater and hotel would be unionized.

Also ticking off the union: Stagehands have been the only workers not getting their $10 per-day parking validated during the three-week set-up period. “This might sound petty,” said LaVoise. “But if you’re in there for almost a month, this starts to add up. And it’s not that easy to find parking in Hollywood.”

An Academy spokesman said the pressroom was set up by union workers, but not Local 33, since the hotel works with a different local. As for the Governors Ball, the Acad is following the rules of the house, which were negotiated by Wolfgang Puck and TrizecHahn.

As reported (Daily Variety, March 12), Oscarcast mavens meanwhile are fretting about TV signals. Unlike the previous homes of the Academy Awards, Hollywood & Highland is surrounded by high-rise buildings and is backed against the hills, which creates a transmission situation that one insider described as “delicate.”

If another tall building goes up nearby in the coming years, there could be serious problems. So far, Acad and ABC officials feel confident.

Sunday will prove the real test for the elaborate traffic plans made by the Acad, L.A. Dept. of Transportation, Caltrans, LAPD and LAFD (Daily Variety, March 7). Streets have been closed off and precautions taken to ensure safe and swift arrivals.

But the last time the Academy moved to a new venue — its Oscarcast at the Shrine, held April 11, 1988 — the traffic proved more unwieldy than expected. The difference, said Acad execs, is that all the orgs have spent much more time addressing this issue than in 1988.

Weather worries

Tied in with this are weather concerns. Angeleno drivers freak out at any deviation from sunshine; wind or (yikes!) rain would throw a major monkey wrench into all the planning, particularly traffic.

Even in sunny weather, neighbors are upset over the parking and the number of streets that have to be shut down. Several Hollywood merchants and restaurant managers, however, are hopeful that the temporary stoppage of traffic will prove beneficial in the long run: Oscar is being held in Hollywood for the first time in 42 years, and they hope the PR will prove a long-term benefit. Of course, in the short term, they have to contend with rent payments and overhead in a situation when it’s harder for customers to get to their stores.

Other Oscarcast concerns include fewer seats at the Kodak Theater (Daily Variety, March 11) and, of course, security (Daily Variety, March 6). However, especially in the latter issue, Acad officials are confident that the situations are under control, since safety issues had been part of longtime planning for the new venue.

“Any new theater, we know there’s going to be bugs,” said LaVoise. “But you have to give it time to work out.”

(Timothy M. Gray contributed to this report.)

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