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Hollywood Welcomes Return of Red Carpets as Pandemic Restrictions Ease


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As pandemic restrictions ease, in-person red carpets have begun their comeback. NYC’s Pose premiere April 29 served as an unofficial ribbon cutting to live events. It was followed in L.A. by a May 13 premiere for Starz’s Run the World, MTV’s Movie & TV Awards on May 16, a Hollywood Bowl celebration for the Amazon doc Pink: All I Know So Far on May 17, a Cruella carpet on May 18 and the Billboard Music Awards on May 23.

“It’s a total collaboration to do this, and to change the mindset of how we did events prior to this,” says Maggie Swisher, the event producer behind the Pink premiere. In working with the city, county, venue, Amazon and the star, Swisher’s team opted to mandate testing, masks and face shields for red carpet reporters, with only four outlets offered spots. “At this stage of the game, where we’re just starting to come back into focus, we want to make sure that we’re taking every precaution possible,” she says.

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Carey Hart and Pink at the Hollywood Bowl.

Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

With ever-changing COVID policies, studios and streamers have all approached the road back differently — Pose featured a fuller red carpet line but with plastic barricades in between each outlet, creating individual pods, and also required testing; Run the World hosted a rooftop event with a two-outlet carpet, with masks and a “mingling is not allowed” mandate. Cruella did not allow press inside but gave fans a look through the Disney film’s social media channels.

Though many are fully vaccinated at this point, vaccine passports have not yet been accepted for carpet access or as a way to bypass testing.

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Plastic barriers separated reporters on the Pose red carpet.

Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

Some event planners, though, expect the future of Hollywood events to be a mix of virtual and in-person since the pandemic revealed the vastly larger reach online events can have. Says event producer Tony Schubert, who assisted with the launch of Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, “we saw over 100,000 people log on and try to watch the premiere,” a massive jump from the typical 500 to 1,000-person premiere guest list.

He adds, “It’s not to say that you couldn’t do a big Hollywood premiere with 500 or 750 people like you normally would, and then do a virtual premiere for people in New York or across the country that want to log on and watch it in real time when the premiere’s happening.”

June 15, the date set for California’s reopening, will serve as a go-ahead for more studios to return to the red carpet: “It’s a big date,” says Jodi Cohen of JOWY Productions, as she and her business partner Sarah Lowy plan for the future of premieres and afterparties, looking at outdoor venues and opting for served meals over buffets.

“The other thing is also with this whole dancing notion. People are like, ‘Can I dance?’” says Cohen. “If you wear a mask you can dance.”

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From left: Run the World stars Amber Stevens West, Bresha Webb, Andrea Bordeaux and Corbin Reid.

Michael Kovac/Getty Images

As one of the first to pull it off successfully, Swisher advises others to “undo the mindset that more is better. And that’s a really hard mindset to undo because we are in the business of packing houses full and packing carpets full and having activations that are interactive. We just have to reset our mindset and realize that we can have a really good event that is not busting at the seams.”

And down the line, she sees the days of the packed pre-pandemic events making a return.

Says Swisher, “I don’t see a world in which when it’s safe that we don’t go back to blowing it out for the right film.”

A version of this story first appeared in the May 26 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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