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In-Person Holiday Parties Back With Heightened Protocols Amid Variant Concerns


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‘Tis the season for holiday parties, and across Hollywood in-person gatherings are back in the biggest way since December 2019. But, with rising concerns due to the omicron variant, not everyone is rubbing noses under the mistletoe.

Of the invites The Hollywood Reporter fielded in recent weeks, all have required proof of COVID-19 vaccination, and the majority of protocols have been updated in the wake of the new variant to include proof of a negative test within 24-48 hours. MGM hosted a holiday toast at the Houdini Estate on Monday evening to celebrate its 2021 slate that included House of Gucci, Licorice Pizza, Cyrano and Die Another Day. The invite mentioned an outdoor tented party space as well as an on-site testing tent that all guests must pass through with negative results in order to be admitted.

Showtime’s David Nevins opened up his home for some holiday cheer on Dec. 8, and that event also required proof of vaccination and a negative COVID test. Meanwhile, masking for most events is recommended, except when eating or drinking. Disney Branded Television and National Geographic teamed for a holiday reception on Dec. 14 at Terra at Eataly in Century City to celebrate “the most wonderful time of the year,” and the invite stated that masks were “strongly encouraged” when not consuming food or beverages.

That event also required proof of vaccination, same for Array’s holiday open house: The Ava DuVernay-led company opened up its Los Angeles campus for an afternoon soiree on Dec. 10. “Array adheres to current CDC COVID-19 mandates and protocols,” read a confirmation email that also encouraged guests feeling ill to stay home and for those in attendance to wear proper face coverings and masks covering the nose and mouth except when eating and drinking.

Other events in recent days include St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Brooks Brothers holiday fete hosted by Rachel Zoe, Rodger Berman, Emma Roberts and Tia Mowry in Beverly Hills on Dec. 11; Patron Tequila’s Merry Sherry Holiday Party at Hideaway on Dec. 17; Producer Jennifer Klein opened her Brentwood home for “an outdoor and safely curated” holiday celebration on Dec. 4, marking a return of the typically star-packed event; the Baby2Baby holiday party and drive-thru with Jessica Alba, John Legend and Chrissy Teigen; and a slew of fashion events including fetes for Dior Beauty, Vince and others.

One insider said that despite a flurry of invites and gatherings, “It’s still not what it used to be,” adding that many are still holding back from large-scale gatherings, especially those with press and entourages, opting instead for intimate, in-home affairs. “[Holiday parties] are moderately back, but I wouldn’t say it’s a packed calendar,” the insider suggested.

“We’re not fully back,” actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson tells THR. He and husband Justin Mikita hosted 17 people for Thanksgiving at their home and said that he’s happy that health experts have not discouraged gatherings this year like they did in 2020. “We’re being careful, but we’re also happy to gather with family and close friends. It’s going to take a little bit of time for us to feel like we’re fully comfortable.”

Actor Dule Hill said invites are coming in, but he’s only saying yes if “the invitation is right.” For him, that means an event that clearly states COVID-19 vaccination is required for admittance. “Then, it makes me feel safe to come,” he explains. “I’m not too interested in being in large crowds.” Hill, who spoke with THR at the opening night of A Christmas Carol starring his West Wing pal Bradley Whitford, said his appearance at that event was “a big step for me,” as he’s been cautious amid the pandemic due to work and having a young one at home. “We have a 2-year-old at home who’s not vaccinated, it makes you think what’s really worth it? Do I really want to go and put myself in that dynamic for a party?”

At Sunday night’s premiere for George Clooney’s The Tender Bar, actor Matthew Delamater said that his circle back home in Maine has “shrunk a little bit,” making it easier to navigate the social swirl. That said, “We’re trying to be careful, but what COVID has taught us all is that after being away from family and friends for so long, getting to gather again, whether it be for events like this or holiday parties, makes you realize how much you miss it.”

His co-star, veteran actor and filmmaker Max Martini, echoed that he and his family are proceeding with caution. “We’re navigating it with care,” he said. “Knock on wood, nobody in my family has gotten sick. I love being out again, though, because it feels normal again but you have to be conscious of the fact that we still have a virus out there.”

A version of this story first appeared in the Dec. 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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