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Academy Awards

Oscars: tickets to the hottest event in Hollywood are now even harder to score. Here’s why

The 90th Academy Awards will be beamed live around the world from Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre – but for those hoping to score a spare ticket it means going directly into bargaining mode: calling studios, publicists and friends, faux and real

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 04 March, 2018, 1:57pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 04 March, 2018, 9:32pm

Hollywood is set for its biggest party of the year – but for the lesser privileged it’s impossible to get a ticket unless they’re willing to beg or engage in some serious wheeling and dealing.

The Oscars have always been the toughest ticket in town, and, as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has promised to keep adding new members in an effort to double the number of women and minorities in its ranks by 2020, the seating inventory will be squeezed even tighter with each passing year.

“Unfortunately, it’s only going to get harder,” said an academy spokesperson who was not authorised to speak on the record about ticketing for the big event (Monday morning Hong Kong time).

The reason is simple maths.

The Dolby Theatre, which has hosted the Oscars since 2002, seats 3,400 people on four levels and 20 opera boxes.

Oscar nominees – there are 200 this year – each receive a pair of tickets and can request an additional pair.

Most do. Lead actor nominee Timothee Chalamet, for example, is bringing his parents and sister.

“I’ve always been very lucky to have their support, so it only feels right to get to go with them,” the first-time nominee says.

Watch: how the stars prepare for the Oscars

Lady Bird writer-director Greta Gerwig will be attending with her parents, her partner, Noah Baumbach, and her childhood best friend.

After nominees account for about 800 tickets, blocks are reserved for the show’s broadcast network (ABC), the telecast’s sponsors, the production team, the accountants, the legal team, media, academy museum donors and various dignitaries, such as Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

Movie studios receive a fair share too, proportional, in theory, to the number of nominations their films earn.

But in practice, executives from independent studios complain that the major studios – Warner Bros., Disney, Fox, Sony, Paramount, Universal – receive more than their fair share.

“Paramount has zero nominations, and they still get a lot of tickets,” said a veteran publicist, adding that she had to scramble to find extra tickets for people connected to her films.

Presenters – and there are more than usual this year with the show’s producers pulling out the stops for the 90th ceremony – each get a pair of tickets as well.

“I always love going to the Oscars,” Nicole Kidman, a presenter this year, said.

“It’s nice to be invited.”

Add it all up, and remove the spots that have obstructed views because of the television cameras (seat fillers occupy those), and there’s only a few hundred seats left for a group totalling 8,298 people.

Snagging those tickets involves the following process: members receive an email around the holidays, inviting them to enter a ticket lottery. And though the academy has embraced online voting, the lottery is conducted the old-fashioned way.

Names are written on slips of paper and then pulled out of a drum.

“We don’t use a hat, but it’s close,” said an academy worker familiar with the process.

“And there are lots of slips of paper.”

Should their name not be pulled, academy members say they move quickly past the first two stages of grief – denial and anger – and go directly into bargaining mode, calling studios, publicists and friends, faux and real.

Dump your date. Ditch your spouse. Take me. Please!

Ticket-scrounging veterans emphasise the need to check egos and not get hung up over seat location. That is because the seating chart follows a traditional hierarchy.

Recognisable stars dominate the first few rows of the orchestra level, with big-category nominees placed near the aisle or the very front.

Nominees in the crafts categories – production design, costumes, sound and the like -are seated farther back, typically resulting in a hike to the stage for those who win.

“A few years ago, the producers floated the idea that the stars should be seated a longer distance from the stage because it’d be more interesting to watch them make that minute-long walk,” a studio executive said.

“That proposal didn’t get much traction.”

Then there are three mezzanine levels, with the highest one, Mezzanine 3, containing the most seats.

But beggars can’t be choosers. The increase in membership, plus the move into the cosier Dolby (the Shrine Auditorium, a former home of the Oscars, seats 6,300), has crunched the inventory.

If you want to go and you’re not nominated (or the designated Mayor of Hollywood as front-and-centre Jack Nicholson was for many years),“you have to be OK with the thinner oxygen,” said a member who annually enters the lottery.