UTA Scraps Oscar Party in Favor of Refugee Rally

Dan MacMedan/WireImage; Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images
UTA CEO Jeremy Zimmer

The agency is instead donating $250,000 to the American Civil Liberties Union and International Rescue Committee.

United Talent Agency is scrapping its annual Oscar party in favor of making a donation to a group that has been on the front lines of fighting President Donald Trump's executive order targeting travel from Muslim-majority countries. 

"This is a moment that demands our generosity, awareness and restlessness," wrote UTA CEO Jeremy Zimmer to staff. “Our world is a better place for the free exchange of artists, ideas and creative expression. If our nation ceases to be the place where artists the world over can come to express themselves freely, then we cease, in my opinion, to be America.”

The agency said it would be donating $250,000 to the American Civil Liberties Union, the group that has seen a temporary victory in legally challenging Trump's travel ban, as well as the International Rescue Committee, a humanitarian organization.

It also will be hosting a pro-immigration rally at its Los Angeles office on Feb. 24, two days before the Oscars ceremony is broadcast on ABC. Already this awards season, nominees and winners have stepped up their political rhetoric over Trump's actions and have used their acceptance speeches to make pointed notes about inclusiveness. 

“When fear and division get the better of a society, artists are among the first to feel the impact — and to denounce the ill winds,” Zimmer said in his memo. 

Last year, UTA held its exclusive Oscar party at chairman Jim Berkus' residence. A number of major studios and agencies hold galas and parties on the biggest awards night of the year, including CAA, WME-IMG, ICM Partners and The Weinstein Co. 

It's unclear whether UTA's move will foreshadow any similar moves by other agencies. The same day that UTA changed its plans, WME-IMG co-CEO Ari Emanuel sent a staffwide note stating that the agency plans to form a Political Action Committee and vowing to protect company diversity. 

Los Angeles, like other major cities, has seen several major, peaceful protests aimed at President Trump since his election, including recent demonstrations at Los Angeles International Airport over the travel ban. 

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