This year, once again, the Oscar parties should be seen as a weekend of events rather than just a one-night affair. Last year there were so many fiestas that one studio exec quipped the weekend has become the “Bataan Death March with glitter.”
In 1999, several key factors lead to the number of Oscar parties easily doubling from previous years: more films were legitimate best picture contenders leading to more hopeful studios; businesses have seen the worldwide publicity benefit of an Oscar tie-in; and the economy is booming.
The good news for the party scene is the same conditions exist this year.
For the past couple years, probably the biggest event on Oscar weekend Friday has been the William Morris party. Last year the agency took over the massive ACE gallery on Wilshire Boulevard, which gave Jeffrey Katzenberg a chance to say he “came for the art” and not the schmoozing.
If the DreamWorks topper was there for the art, he was the only one of the 700 guests who eyed the Lisa Ruyter paintings instead of the guests, who included most of the tenpercentery’s top agents, plus Brendan Fraser, Gary Oldham and Giovanni Ribisi.
As for this year, the agency has not yet finally decided if it’s having a party.
Saturday daytime is traditionally reserved for the Independent Spirit Awards, which is held in a massive white tent set on a parking lot near the Santa Monica beach; and the British Academy of Film and Television Arts L.A. tea party, which will be at the nearby Loews Beach Hotel.
This is also the night when Miramax usually has its Oscar-eve party, a highlight of which is what might be called “twisted casting agent,” when nominees read scenes from each other’s films.
One example from last year’s party was Dame Judi Dench in a red wig reading a scene from “Little Voice” (“Never had a shag in a Chevy?”) with “Shakespeare in Love” screenwriter Marc Norman looking lovely in a floral print house dress. No other party offers anything quite like this.
And 1999 saw a Saturday night Talk magazine party hosted by Tina Brown, but that’s not likely this year as the mag just threw a Golden Globes-eve affair.
The night of the Oscars, the biggest event is always the Governors Ball, which will be held in the Shrine’s Exposition Center. Chaired by Sid Ganis, a case could be made that the 1,600-guest ball is the most expensive annual party thrown in the United States. A tab of between $800,000 and $1 million would be a ballpark cost estimate.
Across town, the corner of Melrose and Robertson will once again play host to two of Oscar night’s biggest parties: Vanity Fair’s and the Elton John/InStyle magazine affair.
For the past six years, Vanity Fair magazine has staked out Morton’s for a sit-down dinner viewing party with 140 guests, followed by a free-form, SRO, post-Oscars affair. This after-party has become such a hot ticket that the mag added a tent attached to the restaurant’s parking lot to allow more guests.
Across the street at what was once the Pagani restaurant space will be the Elton John/InStyle magazine soiree. This is an AIDS benefit that has the same setup as Vanity Fair’s: Some come for dinner, more come later.
There’s a chance that this year at the Elton party there might be bleachers set outside for fans, but that detail hasn’t been finalized yet.
Last year the BBC took over the Cobalt Cantina, which lies just north of the Robertson-Melrose juncture, for a party of its own, but there are no plans yet for a fiesta in this space.
Also in West Hollywood, the Hollywood Stock Exchange will be taking over – as it did last year — the House of Blues. They plan to build “The O2K Village” — an Oscar-themed interactive experience — on the strip that will be open to the public over the weekend. Plus the night of the awards there will be a major party and Web cast at the HOB.
As for the studios, no final decisions have yet been made on their Oscar party locales.