CHICAGO Swirling search lights, a red-carpet entrance, and ubiquitous photographers set a Hollywood-inspired tone at the Gene Siskel Film Center on Sunday night for the movie theater's Oscar party. Dubbed “Oscar Night America: Chicago,” the six-hour cocktail bash “has been officially sanctioned by the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences,” said the center's executive director, Jean De St. Aubin. Along with the sanctioning came a serious way to follow the program: “Our guests each receive the official program, which is a collector's item,” said De St. Aubin.
The ceremony was broadcast on a big screen in each of the theater's two auditoriums. During commercial breaks, staffers muted the volume on the television feed to allow for announcements—which had to be carefully timed. When their sponsor acknowledgments came close to drowning out the announcement of the winner in the best supporting actress category, co-chairs Ellen and Tim Kollar were met with exaggerated coughs and vocal protests from the audience. “We'll continue this at the next commercial break,” said Mr. Kollar before quickly returning to his seat.
Throughout the evening, the lobby's concession-stand-turned-open-bar doled out wine, beer, and champagne, along with candy from sponsor M&M's and popcorn in traditional red-and-white striped bags.
Petterino's restaurant provided catering, offering passed appetizers and buffet stations stocked with items such as steak sliders and pesto ravioli. Television screens set up throughout the lobby were tuned into the Oscar ceremony, so that guests could eat at tables and keep up with the program.
The viewing party doubled as a fund-raiser for the film center, and raked in $55,000.