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Oscar Night America lets others join in on fun

AMPAS helps raise money for local charities

HOLLYWOOD — And the Oscar goes to … San Diego. And Washington, D.C., Dallas and Denver, too, as well as Oklahoma City and Salt Lake City. Oscar gets around.

There are 37 cities who have Oscar Night America parties sanctioned by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, but those six cities won a special lottery to have an actual Oscar statuette on loan at their event, all of which are fundraisers for local charities. To Andy Friedenberg, executive director of the Visual Arts Foundation in San Diego, it was like being named best actor.

“Excited wasn’t the word. We were ecstatic,” Friedenberg said. “We hit the big time. For us, it was such a big honor. It was overwhelming.”

Being able to promote the appearance of an actual Oscar statuette gives those parties special cachet, their organizers say.

“I don’t think too many people have the opportunity in life to see one up close,” says Britta Erickson, the public relations director of the Denver Film Society. “It helps draw more people to the event.”

The parties all are held on March 25, the night of the 73rd Academy Awards. They vary in dress code, price and celebrity wattage, but all focus around two things: raising money for local charities and watching the awards show from the Shrine Auditorium.

In Washington, D.C., actor Tony Randall will be the master of ceremonies at a $250-per-ticket, black-tie affair at the Ronald Reagan Building in the International Trade Center. Guests will walk down an entryway made to look like the Hollywood Walk of Fame, with sponsors’ names in place of those of celebrities on the stars. Among those expected to attend are Mayor Anthony Williams, according to Maria Payne, senior director of development and health promotions for the Arthritis Foundation’s metropolitan Washington chapter.

“We’ll have a silent auction and reception, a gourmet dinner, two bigscreen TVs, and during the commercials we’ll have trivia questions,” Payne says.

She says 500 people are expected to attend, up from 350 at the event last year, producing revenues of more than $100,000. That’s the difference Oscar makes.

In San Diego, decidedly more laid-back than Washington, the event will be held at Trophy’s, a sports bar in La Jolla. Guests have two options for dressing up: black-tie or as their favorite celebrity.

“This is our big fundraiser,” said Friedenberg, whose org presents films at outdoor venues in the summer and supports student filmmakers. “We try to help people in the community who want to be the next Spielberg or Coppola,” he added.

Proceeds from Dallas’ event, to be held at the Planet Hollywood restaurant in the city’s west end, benefit the USA Film Festival’s Kids Film Festival, held every January. “It’s films for kids, not by kids,” chuckles Ann Alexander, managing director of the USA Film Festival.

This is the seventh year of the Academy has sanctioned the Oscar Night America parties. The Academy gets no money from the organizations. Its role is strictly charitable.

“We give them our advertising materials, press kits on how to get more coverage from the media, and send them posters,” says Acad spokesman Toni Thompson said. “They can use the Oscar figurine on invitations.”

And one year later, the organizations win again. The loaned statuettes have serial numbers and are presented to Oscar winners at the following year’s awards ceremony, so the orgs can find out who got “their” Oscar.

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