As of this writing, the Motion Picture Academy has yet to officially announce its policy regarding COVID protocols for next month’s Oscar ceremony.
Nonetheless, many in the Hollywood community are going on the assumption that The Hollywood Reporter’s Feb. 9 scoop that no proof of vaccination will be required for the March 27 awards show at the Dolby Theatre is already set in stone. And I’ve spoken with multiple insiders over the past week who tell me they’re plenty furious and flummoxed about a no-vax requirement if that turns out to be the case.
Right after THR broke its story, Seth MacFarlane, who is livid over the matter, tweeted that for the Academy not to mandate vaccines is a “colossal abdication of responsible management. I cannot fathom what piece of information we might be missing that would justify this.”
Frankly, I’m surprised that more industry power players haven’t raised a greater public stink when privately they’ve been complaining to me, and I’m sure to other journalists, very loudly.
“Why isn’t anybody doing anything about this?” a frustrated executive griped to me the other day. “It’s unconscionable,” another person said to me over lunch.
I’m told the situation remains fluid as the Academy continues to work closely with Los Angeles County officials before landing on a decision, which I hear will likely come this week.
One thing I know for certain is the Academy is going to cut down on the number of invited guests. A good source tells me that while the Dolby seats 3,400 at capacity, the Oscar crowd will likely be 2,500 or less. L.A. County’s rules on indoor mega-events — such as the Oscars — present an either-or choice to all attendees: proof of full vaccination or a negative test that day.
But critics of a no-vax requirement say even extensive testing — which the Academy is privately recommending at this point — isn’t enough, and they question why the Oscars should differ from other upcoming awards shows like the Screen Actors Guild and Critics Choice that are requiring vaccination proof from attendees. (There are, however, still questions about whether that applies to crews working those events.)
Certainly, it’s encouraging news that the number of cases of the omicron variant have dropped significantly in L.A., but we’re not out of the woods yet. People are still getting sick and dying. Someone I’m close to told me that when she very recently went to visit a relative at Cedars-Sinai, the hospital was overrun by COVID patients, with beds lining the hallways.
In his Feb. 10 Variety story, reporter Gene Maddaus wrote: “To go out to a movie in Los Angeles, patrons must show proof of COVID vaccination. The same applies for sitting in a restaurant or going to a gym or getting a haircut. … Surely the risk of COVID transmission is higher in a crowd of thousands of people — elbowing for space at the bar, or bunched in line for the Dolby Theatre bathrooms — than it would be in a mostly empty movie theater across the street.”
Come on, Academy, hurry up and take a position!