EXCLUSIVE: After 38 years as an Oscar-season fixture at the Beverly Hilton, the annual Nominees Luncheon is on the road to Hollywood.
I had heard the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences made the decision to move the event, a major one during the Oscar season, to the Ray Dolby Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland on Monday, January 27. That is where the Governors Ball traditionally is held, as well as the Governors Awards, which were held there last Sunday. The Oscar Nominees Luncheon has been exclusively at the Beverly Hilton since its inception in 1982, but circumstances surrounding the February 9 date for this year’s 92nd annual Academy Awards, the earliest ever, forced the Academy’s hand since the AMPAS team already will have begun preparations at the Dolby Theatre for the show itself and will be doing the press preview for the Governors Ball the same week as the luncheon. A spokesperson for the Academy has confirmed the move.
This all means a radical rethink for press outlets, which normally book cabanas alongside the Hilton pool for one-on-one interviews with nominated stars attending the luncheon. Here is my advice: Bon’t book those cabanas. I am told the Academy is working on an alternate plan to help accommodate those interview opps. Perhaps it even could enlist the Lowes hotel next door for this purpose. it has a rooftop pool. Just sayin’.
Everyone has had to adjust to the realities of the earlier season. It’s hard to believe, but we are just two months away from voting for nominations, as balloting will start on the heels of the New Year from January 2-7, a short five-day window that is forcing Oscar strategists to figure out how to get their movies seen in significant numbers with such a condensed season. Just on Wednesday, the Academy sent a letter to members informing them that the promised streaming platform — similar to what the Television Academy long has offered its members — now is in operation and several films from Sony Pictures Classics, Roadside Attractions, Focus Features, and Netflix are posted and available for home viewing including current box office hits Judy, Downton Abbey and Pain and Glory. Of course tech-challenged members first will have to figure out just how to stream them.
Because of the Oscar move two weeks earlier than usual to February 9, BAFTA also had to adjust and move its date to just one week ahead of the Oscars, instead of the usual two weeks, to February 2, further jamming already hectic travel schedules for those lucky enough to be nominated. Part of the reason for that is the Nominees Luncheon, which normally would be three weeks ahead of the Big Night (last year it was February 4), had to get out of the way of BAFTA. So the Academy coordinated with the Brits to ensure that it would not conflict as there is so much overlap between nominees, and getting from London after a late Sunday night at the BAFTAs to Los Angeles for a Monday lunch would be impossible. Thus, BAFTA moved its awards show up a week to avoid conflicting with the lunch.
Will this just be a one-time thing? The Academy already has announced things will be back to normal for at least 2021 and 2022, when the Oscars return to dates at the end of February. The Nominees Luncheon indeed could go back to Beverly Hills — or maybe, just maybe, how about the brand-new Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, which AMPAS President David Rubin guaranteed at Sunday’s Governors Awards would be open in 2020. Now that would be a hell of a way to celebrate the 40th anniversary of this storied and much-loved luncheon, one of the few events during the season where no one walks away a loser.
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