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Anyone who’s thrown a wedding or bar mitzvah knows the headaches of mapping tables, a thankless task that requires being mindful of feuds while coddling fragile egos. The stakes are that much higher for the Golden Globe Awards, whose seating plan falls to former Hollywood Foreign Press Association president Meher Tatna.
It’s a process that begins the moment the nominations are determined. That’s when the seating team convenes to divide the guests into three sections of the 16,000-square-foot International Ballroom at the Beverly Hilton, which has a capacity for 1,300 people: The nominees — each of whom is permitted one guest (usually an agent or manager) — and major studio execs sit closest to the stage in the sunken area known as “the pit,” specially designed to accommodate TV cameras. Lower-profile guests are seated in two further sections called “elevations,” only visible to home viewers when cameras pan the room coming to and from commercial breaks. The best seats cost $1,000 each and are usually paid for by the studios — though the HFPA does comp seats for brand partners and select VIPs (like David Rubin, the president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences).
Tatna and her team run the names of tablemates by publicists ahead of time to ensure there are no awkward confrontations between, say, warring litigants or bickering ex-spouses. “The whole thing is in flux all the time,” explains Tatna. “It’s like a giant jigsaw puzzle. We have this enormous board with yellow circles for tables. Everything is penciled in — we’re constantly erasing and adding and subtracting.”
The biggest change in recent years has been the convergence of film and TV crowds, which has mirrored the rise of streaming services. “In past years, it was mainly the film nominees that sat in the pit,” she says. “But Netflix has 34 nominations this year — so you’re seeing a lot of TV tables in the pit.” As for who tends to throw the biggest tantrums, Tatna remains diplomatically tight-lipped — but she does extend her sympathies to publicists who want to please their powerful bosses. “I feel sorry for them,” she says. “They feel the pressure coming at them from all sides. But we do bend over backwards to make everyone happy.”
The Golden Globe Awards is produced by Dick Clark Productions, which shares a parent company, Valence Media, with The Hollywood Reporter.
This story first appeared in the Jan. 3 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
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