Hollywood “in total shock”, as Omicron variant disrupts awards season

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Hollywood’s traditional awards season has been turned upside down for the second year running after both the Grammys and the Sundance film festival announced cancelations on Wednesday because of a surge in the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

The announcements follow the cancelation of the Palm Springs International Film Festival and the postponement of the Critics Choice awards.

“Hollywood was not expecting this. This was a surprise,” said Marc Malkin, the senior editor at Variety magazine.

He added “Everyone was really looking forward to, you know, a robust awards season, getting back on the red carpet, doing it in person with large audiences. Hollywood, like everyone, is just in total shock because everything’s been put on hold again.”

“What’s causing all these cancelations is the variant and how transmittable it is and basically what happens is these organizers, these producers sit down and say ‘Ok, one, what kind of event could we have if it’s in person? Two, will anyone show up?’. You know, and that was the big question especially with Sundance because they were really trying to make it happen in person and really the word got out there that most of the talent, they were not keen on flying into Park City for Sundance.”

Awards season was always going to look different in 2022 after the Golden Globes, the first major award show of the season, was boycotted by stars, publicists and studios because their governing body, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, was lacking in diversity.

Malkin said “The Golden Globes are happening on Sunday but this will be a Golden Globes like no other. No celebrity presenters, no red carpet, no food, no drink, no actual award show. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association is going to be announcing the winner in some format. They haven’t announced how; they haven’t even said if it will be a Livestream. As I exclusively reported, no celebrities have agreed to be presenters at this year’s Golden Globes.”

The culmination of awards season is the Academy Awards, also known as the Oscars, which are scheduled for March 27.

Last year the ceremony was moved from the Dolby Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard to downtown Los Angeles’ Union Station because of health and safety reasons.

“I think if anyone tells you what the Oscars are going to look like, they’re lying,” said Malkin, adding “We just don’t know. We don’t know because of this variant, we don’t know where we’ll be at the end of March so does that mean less people, more people than last year? I honestly don’t think anyone knows.”

The awards season is not just about celebrities. It also creates employment for thousands of people in the Los Angeles area from waiting staff, caterers and drivers to make-up artists, stylists and publicists.

And it provides a platform for new talent and helps smaller independent films reach bigger audiences at the box office.

“Could Hollywood survive without awards? I can’t imagine it but I could never imagine where we’re at today so who knows?” said Malkin.