The Oscars will be back at the Dolby Theatre on March 27, less than a year after the pandemic forced Hollywood’s biggest night to be held as a scaled-down affair at Los Angeles’ Union Station with strict COVID testing requirements. In the time since, safe and free COVID vaccines have become widely available and mandated for everything from dining out to attending sporting events.
But, The Hollywood Reporter has learned, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is planning not to mandate proof of vaccination (with or without a booster) in order to attend this year’s ceremony. Instead, it intends to require a negative PCR test or a negative rapid antigen test on the day of the event.
The Academy, which requires its own employees to be vaccinated (with rare medical exemptions), declined to comment for this piece.
With this position on vaccinations, the organization is technically adhering to the latest minimum requirements from the Los Angeles Department of Health. But the other major award shows that precede it are not opening their doors to anyone who is not vaccinated.
A spokesperson for the SAG Awards, which will be held on Feb. 27, referred THR to the COVID protocols listed on the organization’s website: “All ticketed attendees will be required to show proof of vaccination plus booster shot (if eligible), proof of negative lab-based COVID-19 PCR test within 48 hours of event, and negative antigen (rapid) test the day of the event.”
And Joey Berlin, COO of the Critics Choice Association, which will hold the Critics Choice Awards on March 13, tells THR, “We will be 100 percent vaccinated and require a negative PCR test within 48 hours of the event. I can’t invite people to a show where they’re not going to feel safe.”
Some industry insiders have speculated that the Academy is being less stringent than it could be because more than a few high-profile industry figures — including at least one of last year’s acting winners and prominent members of the casts of multiple best picture nominees, as well as nominees in other categories — would otherwise be precluded from attending the Oscars.
The Academy has yet to publicly release its COVID policy for Oscar night, but unless it significantly changes between now and showtime, the organization can expect considerable blowback from some members of the community. “Shocking” is how one highly connected industry insider, speaking to THR, described the Oscars’ willingness to accommodate anti-vaxxers.