By Alesandra Dubin Posted February 27, 2012, 1:07 PM EST
LOS ANGELES Call it Hollywood drama: The 84th annual Academy Awards took to the Kodak Theatre last night, only it's not called the Kodak anymore. The bankrupt company pulled out of its naming-rights contract earlier this month, so for now the venue is known generically as the Hollywood & Highland Theater. Among the other changes to the big night was the insertion of Billy Crystal as host, after Eddie Murphy pulled out of hosting duties following original producer Brett Ratner's resignation. (Ratner did so under heavy pressure after making gay slurs last year.)
But here's something that didn't change significantly on Oscar night: There wasn't a major shake-up in importance of the biggest and most buzzed-about events: the Governors Ball hosted by the Academy after the show, Vanity Fair's viewing bash, and the Elton John AIDS Foundation fund-raiser. All three galas were back on the scene commanding their typical A-list attendance and frenzy of media attention (albeit with some format and venue changes). Some guests at these events also made their way to Madonna's well-known annual party, which this year was not co-hosted with Demi Moore, who has been tending to her own much-publicized issues.
The Elton John AIDS Foundation viewing bash, produced by V Productions, moved to a new location this year: the redesigned West Hollywood Park. The event's guest count ballooned to 890 from last year's 750 and offered a five-course dinner from chef Cat Cora with support from Crumble Catering. Given that West Hollywood hasn't even opened the park yet, it stopped construction in order to keep the prestigious party within the city limits after its move from the Pacific Design Center. Chopard, Neuro, and Wells Fargo sponsored, and Foster the People performed. The fund-raising event took in $5.25 million, thanks in part to auction items like the opportunity to join John and husband David Furnish at the Vanity Fair Oscar party, which fetched $230,000.
The Academy's own Governors Ball drew 1,500 guests after the show to the Grand Ballroom at the Hollywood & Highland Center, with production by Sequoia Productions led by Cheryl Cecchetto, and a retooled experience she said was intended to “energize” the room: Guests dined on more than 50 mostly tray-passed dishes from Wolfgang Puck, instead of the typical sit-down dinner.
Rounding out the night's biggest attractions was perhaps the hottest ticket of them all: Vanity Fair's party returned to the Sunset Tower Hotel. (In addition to its Oscar-night party, the mag returned with the 13th installment of “Campaign Hollywood,” the annual weeklong celebration leading up to the awards, co-sponsored by advertisers including Chrysler and L’Oréal Paris.)
Also a major event on Oscar night this year—because of its numerous nominations and wins including honors for The Artist, the first silent Best Picture winner since the first Oscars in 1929—the Weinstein Company took to the Mondrian for its viewing and after-party, with production by Maggie Swisher. There, a celebratory crowd was in the mood to mug in an H.P photo booth along with Artist-inspired props like vintage hats and pearls and plush Uggie dogs. The previous night, the Weinsteins also took to Soho House for a pre-party with production by Chris Benarroch.
After those events wrapped, a newcomer to the scene was just getting started: Maxim, which has had an Oscar presence in the past but not in recent years, kicked off a party for 750 guests beginning at 11 p.m. at a private residence. The event's producer, Visionary Group, said the new party was intended to be the last stop on the night's party circuit, with carousing, drinking, eating, and a performance by Ludacris until 4 a.m.—a decidedly atypical event for Oscar night, which is known as one of L.A.'s only truly formal (ahem, stuffy) nights of the year. Ford was the title sponsor.
Also among the brands that expanded their presences: Montblanc, which typically hosts the Weinstein Company party, made a bigger mark with a champagne brunch on Saturday at the Hotel Bel-Air and a lounge for stylists this week at the Beverly Wilshire.
Throughout the week, a slate of other big events also returned. Among the more notable were Global Green U.S.A.’s ninth annual pre-Oscar party with sponsor Chevy Volt, which took to Avalon Hollywood on Wednesday. Essence hosted its fifth annual “Black Women in Hollywood” luncheon at the Beverly Hills Hotel on Thursday. Also that day, QVC’s “The Buzz on the Red Carpet” event returned to the Four Seasons, with production by SPEC Entertainment; the U.S.-Ireland Alliance doled out its awards at J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot production house; and Hollywood Domino hosted its fifth annual gala and tournament on Thursday at the Sunset Tower with a “Tango in Paris” theme. On award night, the 22nd annual “Night of 100 Stars” black-tie viewing dinner, produced by veteran music agent Norby Walters, returned to the Beverly Hills Hotel's Crystal Ballroom. Mercedes-Benz was back at Soho House for its viewing party, and AIDS Project Los Angeles returned to the Abbey.
At the Oscar show itself, Architectural Digest worked with interior designer Waldo Fernandez to create its signature greenroom. It was the 10th consecutive year the mag produced the backstage lounge for presenters and honorees. Among the hosts of the many gift suites around town were GBK, which took to the W Hollywood on Friday and Saturday, and the Humane Society of the United States and Secret Room Events, which hosted their “Red Carpet Luxury Lounge” at L'Ermitage rooftop on Wednesday, with major vacation packages to the likes of the Maldives and Fiji on offer.
For a look inside, we bring you photos from the events, suites, and happenings around town.