Has Vanity Fair’s Oscar Party Lost Its Luster?


“Lanyard fatigue,” as one war horse called it, is felt especially keenly in Hollywood during Oscar week, where the social and professional calendar is increasingly packed, with at least 50 significant parties in play. The three major agencies will host bashes on Friday night: WME at a rented house in Beverly Hills, UTA at the Sunset Tower hotel, and CAA at the San Vicente Bungalows, a new private club.

On the night of the awards, there is the Elton John AIDS Foundation benefit and viewing party, now in its 27th year: a seated five-course dinner for 996 people in 50,000 square feet of tent in a West Hollywood Park. Tables start at $55,000, and the Killers will perform. The party was once co-hosted by InStyle magazine; now IMDb, the movie internet database, is the primary sponsor.

Warner Bros., the studio behind “A Star Is Born,” will take over at the Bungalows.

Over at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, Byron Allen, the comedian turned media entrepreneur, will host a fund-raiser to benefit Children’s Hospital Los Angeles; Jamie Foxx will be the M.C. and John Legend is scheduled to perform. “We have a lot of people on Oscar night all dressed up with no place to go,” Mr. Allen said. “We thought this is a great opportunity to continue the evening and do it for a great cause.”

All the activity and do-goodery can’t mask that the Academy Awards are losing power. In the late 1990s, when the Vanity Fair party was at its peak (some 15,000 people requested invitations in 1999, according to reports at the time), the Oscars telecast attracted more than 40 million viewers. More than 55 million people tuned in for the 1998 ceremony, when “Titanic” won best picture.

Last year, however, the show drew 26.5 million viewers, the lowest in five decades. This year it won’t even have a host, after the invited one, the comedian Kevin Hart, stepped down amid renewed scrutiny on his past anti-gay ramblings on Twitter.

Hollywood is a serious place these days. At last year’s Vanity Fair party, much of the chatter focused on “inclusion riders,” or contract stipulations that may require a cast and crew to, for example, be 50 percent female, 40 percent underrepresented ethnic groups, 20 percent people with disabilities and 5 percent L.G.B.T. people.

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