Multiple sources tell Variety that Academy producers are in late-stage discussions with the British Film Institute (BFI) about holding the studio event — which will host this year’s local nominees as part of the main ceremony — at its Southbank location, which overlooks the Thames and is a popular venue for red carpet premieres, particularly during the BFI London Film Festival. The location’s NFT1 cinema is its biggest screen and largest stage. There’s also some outdoor space, although it’s fairly limited.
London is opening back up this week after a three-month national lockdown, and it’s believed this has posed considerable headaches for organizers trying to plan a major event, which is why talks are still underway this late in the game. The Oscars take place in just over 10 days, on Sunday, April 25.
The Academy faced backlash last month after it was revealed that Zoom acceptance speeches weren’t an option this year, causing some alarm among nominees who aren’t based in Los Angeles. Shortly after, producers backtracked and confirmed that hubs would be set up in London and Paris to accommodate international nominees.
Sources have indicated that producers will need to be creative in how they carry out the event at Southbank — which would take place in the early hours of April 26 because of the eight-hour time difference with Los Angeles — due to ongoing restrictions around mass gatherings. It’s thought that organizers will need special permission from the government if they are to have the event fully indoors, although sources have indicated that producers are trying to find a solution that will work while still observing guidelines.
In terms of attendance, only nominees will be permitted to the event, along with one guest. Those taking part will also need to take at least two COVID-19 tests before the ceremony, and guests attending from outside the U.K. will need to quarantine for the required 10 days, and take two coronavirus tests.
This year’s Oscars have a number of prominent U.K.-based nominees, including Carey Mulligan, Emerald Fennell, Anthony Hopkins, Vanessa Kirby and Sacha Baron Cohen.
In Paris, the Academy is teaming with Canal Plus for its local studio, which will host seven nominees, including “The Father” director Florian Zeller. But due to strict COVID-19 restrictions in France at the moment, the rules are stricter: Unlike London, nominees can’t bring any guests and will have to attend by themselves. In addition, no food or drink will be permitted on the premises.
Late last month, producer Steven Soderbergh called the logistics of organizing this year’s ceremony “mind-numbing.”
“We’re so sorry for the frustration that our silence has caused. It’s not because we don’t care. It’s not because we aren’t listening or that we’ve been caught off guard by the complexities of the show,” said Soderbergh during a meeting for the studio and personal reps of Oscar nominees, as reported by Variety. “Every day since the nominations came out, we’ve had an internal debate whether to release information about what we’re doing even though that information is often etched in Jell-O.”
Elsa Keslassy contributed to this report.