Oscars Preview: Set Design Includes Social-Distant Seating (IMAGE / AWARDS 2021)

People Magazine published an Oscars exclusive: the set for the 2022 Academy Awards. The design includes a spatially distant auditorium with limited seating.

(To read my Oscar predictions, click here.)

Due to COVID concerns last year, the Oscars were held at L.A.’s Union Station, a more ventilated venue. But now the Academy Awards are home again at the org’s Dolby Theatre in downtown Hollywood.

But even after a year-plus of vaccinations and a decline in the spread of the virus post-Omicron, COVID’s influence still looms.

That’s the most interesting aspect to the newly released image of the set design for the 2022 Academy Awards, published exclusively by People magazine. (See full image below)

Designed by Broadway set veteran David Korins (Hamilton, Dear Evan Hansen, and three Tony Awards), the traditional rows of theater seats have been removed. In their place: tables and seats that allow for fewer attendees, thus meeting the Academy’s mandate for a smaller audience and social distancing.

The last thing the Academy wants is to be a super-spreader event for the industry’s elite, even if those fears have been significantly diminished from a year ago.

The set itself is clean, futuristic, and elegant, and that design is reflected in the tables and chairs in the audience as well.

The main stage also includes a separate extension that extends out from the center of the proscenium. It will be interesting to see how that smaller, singular stage is utilized.

This, of course, is a digital mock-up, but it’s an intriguing sneak peek at what we can anticipate for Oscar’s return to the Dolby. One thing to watch for: how this revamped auditorium may change the atmosphere of the room and the traditional, more formal Oscar experience.

In terms of what to expect from the show itself, Oscars producer Will Packer told Variety that, for him, he’s taking a “Super Bowl” approach:

  • “The NFL can never control who plays in the game,” Packer says. “What they can control is who’s their half-time show, pregame show, who’s singing the national anthem to get everybody in. That’s my job. To get everybody in to celebrate the most talented people in the world,” then adding, “I’m going to do the best I can to treat this show with the reverence and respect I think it deserves, but I’m also going to try to make an entertaining show.”

The 94th Academy Awards will air Sunday night, March 27, 2022 at 8PM EST / 7PM CST / 5PM PST.

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