EXCLUSIVE: After months of speculation, the British Academy of Film and Television Awards has confirmed it is moving its EE BAFTA Film Awards to London’s iconic Royal Albert Hall for 2017.
It will mark the first time the event has been held there since 1997, when the Film and Television Awards were given jointly at the same ceremony. The Film Awards have been held at the Royal Opera House, which is currently undergoing refurbishment, in the capital’s Covent Garden area for the last 10 years. Royal Albert Hall sits about three miles west on the northern edge of London’s South Kensington region.
Stephen Fry will be returning to host the 70th edition of the ceremony, which takes place on February 12, making it the 12th time the UK’s resident renaissance man has presented the prestigious event.
Guests this year will be in for a particular treat as the ceremony will feature entertainment from the Cirque du Soleil, which will be in residence at the Royal Albert Hall at the time of the awards with its latest touring show Amaluna. The performing group did a segment at the Academy Awards in 2002 and 2012.
Speaking to Deadline, Emma Baehr, BAFTA director of awards and membership, and Clare Brown, director of production, said that the move to the Royal Albert Hall was “a perfect fit” for its 70th edition.
“The Royal Opera House is having a refurbishment this year and we’re excited that we’ve found a venue that is similar in prestigious reputation as well as in terms of historical significance,” said Baehr.
Brown said it’s a first for the Cirque du Soleil, which is cancelling two performances during its Royal Albert Hall residence in February, to make room for the BAFTAs. “They feel that the synergy between the two organizations is very good,” she said, adding that the group’s film-related performance during the ceremony will be “completely different” from its previous Oscar offerings.
BAFTA will be using more than half of the Royal Albert Hall’s 5,272 seating capacity, which will see it increase its numbers by around 1,000 this year (Royal Opera House’s seating capacity sits at 2,256). A number of these extra seats will go to industry members and sponsor EE will be given the opportunity to run more competitions to give the wider public more access to the event this year.
But whether it’s a permanent move is unclear. “We plan one year at a time,” said Brown, pointing out that the Cirque du Soleil will be at the Royal Albert Hall during awards season for the next few years and that the Royal Opera House was keen to have BAFTA back after the refurb.
The awards’ dinner and after party will still be held at Grosvenor House in 2017.
“Both BAFTA and the Royal Albert Hall enjoy a long history of showcasing world-class talent, making this iconic and treasured building the perfect fit for the Film Awards,” said BAFTA chief exec Amanda Berry. “I am also thrilled we have the opportunity to work with Cirque du Soleil during its season at the Royal Albert Hall and have no doubt that next year’s ceremony will be all the more magical for this creative collaboration.”
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