Drama as the Oscars ceremony returns to Hollywood

By Susan Hornik
Business reporter, Los Angeles

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Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
The Oscars ceremony is returning to Hollywood's Dolby Theatre on Sunday after last year's event was held in Downtown LA

"I'm so glad glamour is returning," says Hollywood hair colourist to the stars, Erick Orellana.

Mr Orellana is referring to this year's Academy Awards ceremony, the Oscars, which will be back to its usual glitz and grand scale on Sunday.

In 2021, the annual celebration of the movie industry had to be much more intimate and muted than usual because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The ceremony was even moved out of the Hollywood area of Los Angeles. With less than 200 people able to attend it was a significantly smaller occasion, held eight miles away at Union Station in LA's Downtown. And there were no pre or after-show parties.

However, this year it's a very different story.

For 2022, the Oscars is back at the 3,400-people capacity Dolby Theatre, on Hollywood Boulevard, its home since 2002. And party planners are busily doing final preparations for tinseltown's biggest few days.

Image source, Erick Orellana
Image caption,
Erick Orellana, left, and hair stylist Cristophe Schatteman have both been in high demand in recent weeks

Mr Orellana's clients include actors Kristin Wiig, Gal Gadot, Emma Roberts, and Chris Pine. He says it is great that awards season is returning to normal after "a really difficult two years".

He adds: "Now that red carpet events like the Oscars are finally happening again, we are seeing much more business at the salon."

Based at the Cristophe Salon, Beverly Hills, Mr Orellana has in recent weeks been inundated with calls and requests from "Hollywood publicists, event coordinators, planners, agents and managers".

While the Oscars are obviously all about the film industry, the awards ceremony is also a key event and money earner for a host of other businesses in Hollywood - from Mr Orellana and fellow hair stylists, to fashion and jewellery designers, hotels, and catering firms.

One such jewellery designer, Michael O'Connor, says the Oscars returning to normal is "a true celebration", after two years in which celebrities were not looking for new pieces because there were little or no in-person events for them to attend.

Image source, Michael O'Connor
Image caption,
Jewellery designer Michael O'Connor also appears on US TV screens

He adds that the Oscars red carpet is a place where people like him can showcase their styling expertise, and work with fashion houses to create publicity opportunities.

One aspect of the Oscars that always gets column inches is the free gift bags that the top nominees are given. A leading provider of these is a marketing company called Distinctive Assets, which, like the others, is not affiliated with the organisation behind the awards - the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

For the past 20 years it has given its "Everyone Wins" goodie bags to the nominees in the acting, supporting acting, and directing categories, plus award presenters. The assorted contents of the bags are provided for free by companies and organisations chasing the publicity of the actors wearing, holding, or talking about their product or service.

Distinctive Assets' founder and boss, Lash Fary, says that this year each recipient will get gifts worth a whopping $138,000 (£104,000).

Image source, Distinctive Assets
Image caption,
Some of the items from this year's Distinctive Assets gift bags

The very long list of items included ranges from a stay in a Scottish castle, to skincare products, books, "age-defying supplements", facial treatments, candles, a personal trainer, a year's supply of healthy meals, a hairbrush, popcorn, bath bombs, and even an inflatable orca or killer whale.

This year's goodie bag is "particularly meaningful as we pay tribute to a milestone anniversary [the firm's 20th] and also celebrate the resilience of all involved after the challenges of the past two years," says Mr Fary, who is nicknamed the "sultan of swag".

"Despite perpetual bad news globally, it's an important form of self-care to carve out a little room for the fun, festive, and fabulous."

Image source, Distinctive Assets
Image caption,
Lash Fary is known as the 'sultan of swag'

If nominated actors want to bag even more freebies during Oscars weekend then they can head over to a two-afternoon, invitation-only event held at the Beverly Wilshire hotel. Gavin Keilly, the boss of promotions firm GBK running the event, says each nominee is set to receive gifts totalling $85,000, including a luxury Swiss watch.

While these freebies all sound delightful, there is of course only one thing that the Oscars nominees really want to pick-up - a winners' statuette. Officially known as the Academy Award of Merit, and one of the world's most recognisable trophies, they depict a gold-coloured knight.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Actor Jenna Willis seemed pleased with her GBK 2016 Oscars gift bag

But where to take your statuette following the awards ceremony? To one of the exclusive after-show parties, of course. The official one, the Governors Ball, is back this year after being cancelled in 2021.

Sequoia Productions' Cheryl Cecchetto, who has produced the ball for the past 32 years, says that she "missed it terribly last year".

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She adds: "Even as the band strikes up and the champagne glasses are clinking, make no mistake that there are deals being made amongst all those gowns and tuxedos."

Ana Martinez, vice president of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, is excited to see the Oscars back in the locality.

"The chamber is thrilled that the Oscars are back in the area, as the show brings revenues to many restaurants, shops and hotels, as well as fashion houses," she says.

Image source, Sequoia Productions
Image caption,
Cheryl Cecchetto says that the Governors Ball is the place to be after the Oscars ceremony

Ms Martinez adds that the event attracts a great many tourists, who flock to see the red carpet rolled out outside the Dolby Theatre.

One local attraction that benefits from this additional footfall is the Hollywood Museum. Its founder Donelle Dadigan says visitor numbers rise in the weeks leading up to the Oscars. "Movie fans have an insatiable need to learn more about their favourite films," she adds.

A very short walk away from the Dolby Theatre is the historic Hollywood Roosevelt hotel, which hosted the first Academy Awards ceremony in 1929. This Sunday evening it is again holding its annual Oscars dinner and viewing party, at $300 a head.

"This year's event is a celebration of both our legacy as the location of the first awards, and the return of one of Hollywood's most talked about parties," says the hotel's managing director, Don Jacinto.

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