If you think getting a ticket to the Oscars was difficult before COVID, try scoring a seat in 2021. This year’s Academy Awards, taking place April 25 at Union Station, is limited to nominees, presenters and their one guest. That’s nowhere near the 3,400 who traditionally pack the Dolby Theatre on the big night. While some people may be heading to Craig’s to celebrate this year’s Oscars, booking a suite for a COVID-safe viewing party at Jeff Klein’s Sunset Tower or reserving the private dining room at Ralph Lauren’s The Polo Bar in NYC, most of Hollywood will likely be watching the show from home. With that in mind, Variety asked some of the industry’s power event planners for suggestions on how to turn at-home Oscar viewing into an affair to remember.
Owner, Swisher Prods.
“While it is looking good that we will be back to in-person events in the upcoming months at Hollywood hot spots like the San Vicente Bungalows and Soho House, this year’s Oscar celebrations will look different. Gatherings will be smaller, featuring outdoor screens and distanced seating vignettes. But this is no reason not to celebrate with all of Hollywood’s typical luster and pageantry. It is time to lose the sweats and bedazzle the masks. To kick off the evening, serve mini bottles of bubbly on ice in the backyard with gold metal straws, alongside freshly shucked oysters on crushed ice and spicy tuna cones. For dinner, celebrate like a nominee by ordering take-out from Hollywood hot spot Craig’s, and set tables with cloth napkins, linens and candlelight. For dessert, serve Craig’s individually packaged vegan ice cream. For a mid-show snack, a concession stand with bagged popcorn and movie candy never disappoints. Glitz up your backyard by rolling out your own red carpet photo moment with a sparkly gold backdrop, then be sure to share via your socials as a way to celebrate together with friends across town and beyond. Of course, no Oscar party is complete without pre-printed Oscar ballots and pencils — award prizes to both the best and worst ballot scores.”
Exec VP of awards and events, Shelter PR
“Preparing a virtual Oscar night with your favorite movie buffs [and awards season aficionados] has never been more on-brand than this virtual year. In traditional Oscar fashion, you and your crew will order in from tastemaker season favorites such as Craig’s or Jon & Vinny’s as the pre-show dinner and of course a couple of fancy cocktails from Soho House. With the hope that this will be the last virtual Oscars we’ll have to do, it will be commemorated by a virtual Zoom or Google hangout. Prior to the show, you and your friends will have purchased Elton John and David Furnish‘s Virtual Oscar Party tickets at $20 per ticket, where the funds will be donated to the Elton John AIDS Foundation. Everyone will have their Oscar glam Zoom backdrop ready to go, preferably gold glitter, and dressed in their comfy ‘at home’ attire. Prior to the show, guests will complete their Oscar ballots via Google Forms. Throughout the night and into the Oscar show, all guests will have to drink or take a bite anytime they hear words such as ‘gorgeous,’ ‘beautiful,’ ‘Zoom’ and similar phrases throughout the show.”
“Whether it’s setting a proper table for the first time in a year or pulling out the red carpet look that’s been sadly shoved in the back of your closet, rent a party kit from Social Studies to set the tone. For food, you don’t have to be on the VIP list to secure a lavish meal delivery from Hollywood awards-season staples like the Tower Bar, Cecconi’s and Craig’s. For New Yorkers, the classic Pastis will deliver, along with Minetta Tavern downtown. Or, you can even create a burger bar courtesy of Gramercy Tavern, where anyone across the country can order using goldbelly.com. Of course if you don’t feel like coordinating a delivery order, you can have it catered by This Messy Table LA. As for drinks, the Oscars are a celebration, so raise a glass of your favorite cocktail or a glass of champagne and toast this year’s talented nominees. You can even set up an at-home cocktail making class through the Cocktail Academy for you and your friends!”
President, CH Cre8tive
“A simple menu idea that would be easy to plan would be to do a variety of foods themed toward the nominated films. The dishes could be prepared at home or could be ordered as takeout from several local restaurants. For example, prepare or order Korean food from Kobawoo House or LePho Weho to honor ‘Minari’ or Chicago deep dish pizza from Hollywood Pies or Lou Malnati’s [the Chicago-based eatery ships nationwide] to represent ‘The Trial of the Chicago 7.’ And one could take the theme further and decorate the tablescape with elements of the film like the Korean vegetables, herbs and minari plants. Keep food items individually wrapped and avoid sharing serving utensils.”
President, The Karpel Group
If you’re like me and your April 25 Oscars home-viewing party will mark the first time you and your (newly) fully-vaccinated friends are gathering maskless indoors, that’s definitely a major special occasion. Go all-in on serve-yourself comfort food: lasagna, mac-and-cheese, baked spaghetti pie or turkey chili for dinner, tons of wine, and for dessert a giant homemade chocolate cake to celebrate the Oscars, your emancipation from isolation and all the birthdays you and your friends didn’t properly commemorate this past year.
Founder and CEO and founder, Josh Wood Prods.
“We have all been wearing our sweatpants for a year, so I suggest we dress the hell up. Take off the lounge wear. Get your hair cut. We all have a drawer of good jewelry. Pull it out. Nice watches. Good earrings. Sexy necklaces. I have some good gold jewelry that my grandfather gave me, including an old Cartier watch. Ladies, pull out the diamonds and good stuff. I have spent the last 10 years in a tuxedo for work so spending a year in sweats has been heaven, but let’s open our dry cleaning bags. I have a great Burberry tux. Wear a tux or a handsome suit. A sexy dress with some sequins? Wear what makes you feel hot, whatever makes you feel good! Just get out of our lounge wear. For dinner, I like good Chinese food. It’s very old Hollywood. There’s something fun and sexy about eating Chinese in jewelry and an evening dress. Decorate with red Chinese lanterns or rice lamps from Ikea. The look is: movie star grabbing Chinese after they’ve won an Oscar. In Los Angeles, go for Mr. Chow’s. In New York, my favorites are Empire Szechuan and Kings County Imperial.”
Founder, the Cinema Society
“Impress your guests with food from the most up-to-the-minute hotspot in New York, the restaurant Sona. Priyanka Chopra Jonas is a partner and her film ‘The White Tiger’ is up for an adapted screenplay trophy, so not only is the restaurant as au courant as it gets, but you get extra points for the awards tie-in. Or, missing the heyday of Graydon Carter’s super-star-studded Oscar parties? I sure am. Then dial up the private number to his cozy and still-hot Waverly Inn for heavenly chicken pot pie and spine-tingling truffle macaroni and cheese. And if you’re really feeling inspired by this year’s best picture nominees, hire caterer-to-the-stars Mary Giuliani. Her team will whip up shepherd’s pie and mini trifle jars in honor of ‘The Father,’ tasty Korean barbecue tacos while you root for ‘Minari’ and deep-dish pizza if you’re partial to ‘The Trial of the Chicago 7.’”
Founder, Best Events
“Invite friends and ask them to pick an award that they want to be in charge of. The idea is to have each guest become an ‘expert’ in their categories. Tell them to be ready to talk about the category and the nominees with fun facts and interesting historical facts. And, of course: Who do they think will win this year? Use your kitchen and have appetizers that you and your guests can all make together. It would be fun to invite everyone to come in casual clothing for this part, and then change for the show itself. Set up bedrooms or powder rooms with empty clothing racks and give your guests time to change into cocktail attire. In the dining room, talk about live- action short, production design, costume design, documentary feature and doc short. Move to the den for the finale before the Oscars begin. Serve dessert and coffee and after-dinner drinks and have a candelabra or unlit pillar candles in the room. For in memoriam, guests can light candles for those they have lost in the last year.”