Attendees at the primary venue for Sunday’s 93rd Academy Awards, Los Angeles’ Union Station, will not be required to wear face masks while they are seated in the main show room and on camera. They will, however, be asked to don them during commercial breaks and when they are cycled out of the main show room and into one of two adjacent courtyards, where two-thirds of them will be at any given time.
The Academy conveyed this information to nominees and publicists during a Monday morning Zoom session, Variety was the first to report.
This gameplan marks a significant departure from the way things were conducted at the only prior major awards ceremony that was held in-person during the pandemic, the 63rd Grammys, back on March 14. At that gathering, masks were required except during acceptance speeches.
Jesse Collins was a producer of the Grammys and is, along with Stacey Sher and Steven Soderbergh, one of the producers the Oscars, as well. The trio participated in a Zoom press conference on Sunday, during which Soderbergh said, “Masks are going to play a very important role in the story of this evening.” (Perhaps he was referring to a rumored tribute to first-responders?)
The Academy’s rationale for not requiring masks is apparently that the ceremony is being shot like a movie — a point that they have repeatedly emphasized, even referring to presenters as cast members — and, under current production guidelines, masks are not required for people on camera.
Additionally, COVID numbers in America are better now than they were a month ago, thanks to widespread vaccinations. And the Academy believes it will have a better pulse on the health of attendees because it is conducting its own mandatory testing. (Each attendee will be tested at least three times prior to the show, and will be temperature-checked upon arrival.)
But the optics of some 170 Hollywood figures gathering without masks will undoubtedly provoke criticism and allegations of hypocrisy from the right, and perhaps also from some on the left. Indeed, Pres. Joe Biden, who has been vaccinated, continues to wear masks during public appearances out of a desire to model good behavior for others.