After much internal discussion, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has come to an agreement on coronavirus safety measures for attendees of the 94th Oscars, which will be held on March 27 in Los Angeles: The audience of 2,500 invited guests — including all nominees — will be required to show proof of vaccination against the coronavirus and at least two negative P.C.R. tests.
Performers and presenters also must undergo rigorous testing — but those people will not need to show proof of vaccination, a decision that an academy spokeswoman said on Thursday was in keeping with virus safety protocols on some television sets and return-to-work standards set by Los Angeles County.
Under an agreement last year between entertainment unions and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, production companies (in this case the academy) have the option to mandate vaccinations for cast and crew. But it is not a requirement, and some companies separate productions into zones, with different testing and social distancing requirements depending on how closely casts and crews need to work together.
Face covering requirements also will vary, the academy said. Nominees and their guests will be seated in the orchestra and parterre areas of the Dolby Theater and will not be required to wear masks. These attendees will be seated with more spacing than usual. The Dolby seats 3,317 people and 2,500 people will be invited, the academy said.
Those in the mezzanine may be required to wear masks, as they will sit shoulder-to-shoulder. Infections are declining rapidly in Los Angeles County, and the academy said it was consulting with government officials, infectious disease experts and an independent vendor, Cosmos Health Solutions, on a policy.
Last week, following a report in The Hollywood Reporter that the academy was planning to forgo a vaccine mandate across the board, the organization was pummeled on social media by fans, stars, politicians and others for what appeared to be an effort to accommodate unvaccinated celebrities. Seth MacFarlane, who hosted the Oscars in 2013, was among those who criticized the academy on Twitter.
The academy declined to say anything publicly about The Hollywood Reporter’s article, but officials insisted that no decisions had been made.
Coronavirus safety protocols have been changing rapidly as infections have declined. On Tuesday, Disney eased its mask mandate for fully vaccinated theme park visitors in California and Florida. This week, the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival said attendees (up to 125,000 fans a day in the prepandemic era) would not be required to be vaccinated, tested or masked.
According to government data, 1,713 coronavirus-positive patients were hospitalized in Los Angeles County as of Thursday, a 54 percent decline since Feb. 1. Over the last week, the county has reported an average of about 4,100 new cases per day, a decline of 77 percent from two weeks ago.
The academy’s decision puts it at odds with some award shows that are scheduled to take place in the weeks before the Oscars, including the Critics Choice Awards on March 13. Joey Berlin, the force behind the awards, told The Hollywood Reporter that everyone involved would be vaccinated. “I can’t invite people to a show where they’re not going to feel safe,” he said.
The academy emphasized on Thursday that it would be in direct touch with nominees and studios to walk them through the various safety requirements.