Oscar Preview: Academy Governors Ball Abandons Sit-Down Dinner for "Energized" Format

By Alesandra Dubin February 16, 2012, 3:00 PM EST

Photo: Alesandra Dubin/BizBash

The Governors Ball following the Academy Awards will get a radically restructured format this year, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences revealed at a press preview Thursday morning at the Hollywood & Highland Center. The new open format, created by producer Cheryl Cecchetto of Sequoia Productions, will allow the ball's 1,500 guests to circulate among a variety of seating configurations while dining on Wolfgang Puck's cuisine, instead of the more traditional sit-down-dinner experience. The ball will take place on February 26 in the Grand Ballroom on the top level of Hollywood & Highland, adjacent to what was known as the Kodak Theatre until this week, when the bankrupt brand broke from the naming-rights contract.

Cecchetto said the new format will “energize” the room as guests sample multiple plates instead of being bound to their seats through various courses. The format will be “layers and layers” of tray-passed dishes and small plates. There will be seafood and dessert buffets, but servers will primarily deliver the items to guests. Jeffrey Kurland will again chair the ball, overseeing the decor, menu, and entertainment planning, as well as designing the attire to be worn by the evening's staff.

The Wolfgang Puck menu, created by Puck and chef Matt Bencivenga, is meant to embrace the new format, and includes more than 50 dishes that will be passed throughout the evening. Signature offerings will include Oscar-shaped smoked salmon, chicken pot pie with shaved black truffles, and pastry chef Sherry Yard's gold-dusted chocolate Oscars.

Moet & Chandon will return as champagne sponsor, pouring a signature cocktail known as the “Moet Red Carpet Glamour” created by the winner of the inaugural Oscar cocktail contest, judged by experts and the social media community. The brand will pour 1,000 of its bottles in all.

Mark Held of Mark's Garden will create the flowers for the 19th year, designing a series of floral sculptures, done primarily in red, to complement the ball's Mediterranean-inspired lounge decor. The miniature designs have a modern look that's a departure from years past. The majority of the arrangements will be placed on coffee and side tables scattered throughout the ballroom. For the larger dining tables, Held's works will include roses, orchids, amaryllis, tulips, and calla lilies. The blooms are being flown in from South America, Holland, and Singapore for the occasion.

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will provide lounge furniture rentals, including custom pieces like modern contemporary sectionals and red velvet bournes with custom tufting. Resource One will be the scenic fabricator, with decor elements including a mix of fabrics like champagne metallic mesh and charcoal sequin tulle.

Gregg Field and his band will perform, as will jazz trumpeter Arturo Sandoval. The Vintage DJ, Jonathan Jacobs, will spin original 78s, 45s, and 33s on vintage turntables. An additional headline performer will be announced next week.

Also at the preview, Oscar envelope creator Marc Friedland was on hand to discuss his new partnership with Evite Postmark, which will make his online Oscar party designs available for download.

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