All Oscar Systems Go -- with an Eye on Iraq
HOLLYWOOD (Variety) - Despite the newly heightened imminence of war in Iraq , all systems are go for the Sunday night Oscars -- at least for now.
Monday afternoon, Oscar telecast producer Gil Cates issued a statement: "The Academy Awards are scheduled to proceed Sunday the 23rd at 5:30 p.m."
But the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences this week will be going over its contingency plans, spurred by President Bush 's declaration Monday evening that military action against Iraq could be launched as soon as Wednesday night.
After the speech, academy spokesman John Pavlik said, "At this point, there's no change. We're working diligently to get this show on the air Sunday. We're cognizant of the situation and trying to keep our options open."
Academy insiders confirmed that ongoing discussions will be held this week, but they're taking it one day at a time.
In his televised address to the nation, Bush said Saddam Hussein and his sons must leave Iraq within 48 hours or face military conflict "to commence at a time of our choosing" -- meaning it could begin on Wednesday, but not necessarily.
The academy has delayed the Oscars once in 1938, and two more times in the era of TV broadcasts -- in 1968 and again in 1981.
Aside from the question of timing, there's an issue of tone. Oscars are Hollywood's big night to celebrate, but no one wants the celebration to seem frivolous or insensitive.
Bush's statements -- and the possibility that bombing will begin this week -- clearly represent terrible timing for those planning the Oscars and all the surrounding events. For months, academy president Frank Pierson, academy executives and Cates have been saying there was no firm contingency plan, because there were too many variables.
Cates said that if the country were at war, ABC might break away from the Oscars for occasional news updates or even run a news crawl across the bottom of the screen.
Everyone is hoping for business as usual. But there are questions about contingency plans, such as whether the Kodak Theater would be available at another date or how long the city can continue to block off streets surrounding the Hollywood & Highland complex.
If there is an Oscar delay, presumably it would be only for a day or two, to take advantage of the fact that people will be in town for the scheduled Sunday telecast. One academy insider acknowledged that many of these questions have yet to be answered, but no one at the organization would even speculate on a postponement.
At the studios, many people conceded off the record that a final decision cannot be made until the weekend. Since the Oscarcast always has a ripple effect, a postponement would affect such things as travel arrangements (i.e., plane reservations, hotels, limos) for the participants and various audience members.
It's one thing to have a contingency plan for a TV broadcast of the ceremonies; it's another to have a backup arrangement for a party. Ken Scherer, CEO of the Motion Picture & TV Foundation, said, "We have multiple contingency plans." Saturday night will see the inaugural fund-raiser for the MPTV Fund at the Beverly Hills Hotel. "We're just waiting to see how this plays out. We're going to take our cue from the Oscars," Scherer said.
His approach was echoed by many of the other party planners. Another exec was less sure about her studio's pre-Oscar fete. "You either have the party (the night it was scheduled) or you cancel it," said one exec.
Even if things continue as scheduled, there are questions about the mood of the evening -- whether the Oscarcast will feature political statements from presenters or winners, and whether the show or the parties will be more somber.
One studio exec sighed, "They have to have the Oscars on Sunday. I can't take one more day of this campaign season."