How the Strikes Could Impact the Film Academy’s Museum Gala, Governors Awards and Oscars

How the Strikes Could Impact the Film Academy’s Museum Gala, Governors Awards and Oscars

Few things in Hollywood haven’t been impacted by the first simultaneous strikes of writers and actors in more than 60 years — indeed, much of the town has come to a complete standstill. With speculation that the work stoppage could go on for the rest of 2023, organizers of many upcoming industry events are being forced to consider how, or even if, they can proceed.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is no exception. It is the organization behind not only the annual Academy Awards, but also numerous other major events at which, in normal times, writers and actors cross paths with executives. Two — the Academy’s Museum Gala and the Governors Awards — historically have taken place in the fall, but this year are very much in jeopardy.

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The Museum Gala, an annual — and critically essential — fundraiser for the young Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, has quickly become the Met Gala of the west coast, attracting comparably big names — and fashion statements — to its first edition in September 2021 (which raised more than $11 million for the institution) and its second edition in October 2022 (more than $10 million). Its third edition, THR has heard, was intended to take place on October 14, but plans remain up in the air.

Given the philanthropic motivation of the Museum Gala and the strike-neutral position of the Academy — the membership of which includes executives, writers and actors, and which recused itself from labor disputes some 90 years ago — it seems unlikely that the striking guilds would forbid their members from attending or picket the event.

But, if the strike is still happening at the time of the event, members themselves might well opt to skip it. Many attendees, including more than a few Oscar hopefuls, attend each year as the guests of the studios distributing the film for which they are in contention, who pick up the considerable cost of tables (which cost $250,000 to $500,000) or individual seats ($25,000). The awkwardness of having to rub shoulders with executives whose companies they are striking against, and the optics of attending a fancy event while the vast majority of their colleagues — the 99 percent who are not rich and famous — are hurting, would surely give many pause.

Then there’s the Governors Awards, an annual gala dinner at which the Academy’s board of governors fetes four people from the film community with special honors. That event — the 14th edition of which has already been publicly slated for Nov. 18 — is non-televised and is put together by union workers (from writers to crew), two points that would seemingly be in its favor with the guilds. But then things get complicated.

The Governors Awards are held in the thick of Oscar season because the Academy calculated — rather brilliantly, it turned out — that scheduling it for then would make it a hot spot for big names currently in Oscar contention to be seen/photographed/mingle with Academy members. Indeed, more stars now attend the Governors Awards than the Oscars, not least because nobody has been eliminated from contention by the time they are held.

But the hefty tab for attending the Governors Awards — $75,000 for a table or $7,500 for an individual seat — is almost always picked up by a studio, which then fills its table(s) by inviting the key contributors to its contending films — including, of course, actors and writers — to sit there alongside the studio’s top executives. That dynamic would currently be untenable.

Plus, two of this year’s four Governors Awards honorees are, you guessed it, actors: Angela Bassett and Mel Brooks (also a writer), both whom are set to receive honorary Oscars. And if they express reservations about being at the event during the actors strike, as seems likely, then it’s hard to imagine that the Academy could proceed. This year’s other two honorees — film editor Carol Littleton, who was also tapped for an honorary Oscar, and Sundance Institute founder Michelle Satter, who was chosen for the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award — while highly distinguished, are not exactly “household names” who would independently drive ticket sales.

Further complicating matters for the Academy: if the event does have to be postponed, it really cannot be pushed further than Jan. 16, 2024 — the date on which voting to determine the nominations for the 96th Oscars closes — without losing the primary incentive for current movie stars to show up. And we’ve seen what it’s like when that happens: the 12th Governors Awards was delayed, due to the pandemic, until the Friday before Oscars Sunday in 2022, and far fewer notables were in attendance than in other years.

Speaking of Oscars Sunday, the 96th Academy Awards is currently set to air on Disney-owned ABC on March 10, 2024. And though writers and actors are striking against the studios, and Disney chief Bob Iger has unintentionally made himself the face of the studios in the ongoing dispute, it’s very hard to imagine that the Oscars will not take place on that date. Why? Partly because it seems probable that the entire industry would be decimated if the strikes lasted into March. And partly because a strike — even an ongoing one — has never derailed the Oscars.

The 32nd Oscars was held on April 4, 1960, in the midst of the last dual writers/actors strike before this one (which was ultimately resolved 14 days later). That night, host Bob Hope began his monologue (which you can watch below) by cracking, “Welcome to Hollywood’s most glamorous strike meeting,” later adding, “I never thought I’d live to see the day when (B-movie actor and then Screen Actors Guild president) Ronald Reagan was the only actor working” and “Both factions in the strike are here tonight, and I want to say that the best acting performances of the year are going on right in the audience.”

(embed)https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QvbC8tQvTF0(/embed)

Seven years later, the 39th Oscars was almost derailed by a strike of the America Federation of Television and Radio Artists, in support of which the Directors Guild of America instructed its members to not perform any work, the American Federation of Musicians told its members not to cross picket lines and the Academy itself declared, “If the strike is still in progress, the show will not go on.”

But, after 13 days, the strike was resolved within hours of the scheduled start of the Oscars telecast on April 10, 1967, and the show went on. Hope, once again emceeing, cracked in his monologue (which you can watch below), “Good evening, everyone. Welcome to the on-again, off-again, in-again, out-again 39th annual Academy Awards. This is the big night, and what tension, what drama, what suspense — and that was just deciding whether the show was going on or not. Actually, we just got the word about a half-hour ago, and I hope the teleprompter knows the strike is over. This could be the first two-hour, commercially-sponsored pause. Anyway, we’re happy the strike is over. The incriminations, suspicions and anger are all behind us. Now the real fighting begins!”

(embed)https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fjyi70JVP_I(/embed)