AFP
Wire Service
4 minute read
17 May 2020
8:30 am

Hollywood hype machine plots virus-proof red carpets

AFP

Red-carpet premieres are the pinnacle of any new Hollywood blockbuster's publicity blitz.

Actress Emma Watson attends Disney's 'Beauty and the Beast' premiere at El Capitan Theatre on March 2, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. Hollywood is seeking ways to salvage red carpet glamor in the era of social distancing. GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/File/Frazer Harrison

Their A-list entourages, elbow-to-elbow fans and showbiz photographers vying for the perfect snaps of glamorous stars, are also a nightmare for social distancing.

But with California coronavirus restrictions easing, and major movies like “Tenet” eyeing July release dates, Tinseltown’s marketing gurus are scrambling for ways to safely roll out those carpets once again.

Actress Sandra Oh attends the premiere of BBC America and AMC's 'Killing Eve' at ArcLight Hollywood on April 01, 2019 in Hollywood, California. Fans may now have to appear on LED screens to engage with actors. GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/File/Emma McIntyre
Actress Sandra Oh attends the premiere of BBC America and AMC’s ‘Killing Eve’ at ArcLight Hollywood on April 01, 2019 in Hollywood, California. Fans may now have to appear on LED screens to engage with actors. GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/File/Emma McIntyre

“Prior to what we’re going through, it was about getting a lot of attention and getting big crowds to come together and sharing with as many people as possible to help spread the excitement,” said Elizabeth Tramontozzi, of leading Hollywood event planners 15|40 Productions.

“It’s going to be massively different moving forward,” she told AFP.

Her company, which built an epic “Game of Thrones” set in New York for last year’s series finale and has launched Disney movies with extravagant premieres on Hollywood Boulevard, has spent the lockdown drawing up new designs.

These include plexiglass barriers between journalists and stars, screened-off “pods” for interviews via video link, and drop-off zones where pre-selected fans appear on LED screens to engage with actors.

Chairman and CEO of Sony Pictures Tony Vinciquerra and Lamorne Morris attend the premiere of Sony Pictures' "Bloodshot" on March 10, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. Temperature checks are also being considered. GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/File/Amy Sussman
Chairman and CEO of Sony Pictures Tony Vinciquerra and Lamorne Morris attend the premiere of Sony Pictures’ “Bloodshot” on March 10, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. Temperature checks are also being considered. GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/File/Amy Sussman

Entourages will be asked to enter socially-distanced theaters via “bypass lanes” that free up the red carpet for the stars alone.

Temperature checks for all guests are being considered, while fans would be physically barred from attending.

“We need to enclose ourselves first so that there is no gathering on sidewalks and people watching,” said 15|40 president Craig Waldman.

With everyone left surrounding the carpet spaced out, “the carpet’s just going to be a little wider and the carpet’s going to be a little bit longer,” he added.

– ‘Hope it happens’ –

Model Chanel Iman attends a Golden Globes Party at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 10, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California. Lavish after-parties may be put on hold until a virus vaccine is found. GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/File/Mike Windle
Model Chanel Iman attends a Golden Globes Party at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 10, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California. Lavish after-parties may be put on hold until a virus vaccine is found. GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/File/Mike Windle

Even so, publicists do not expect lavish Los Angeles after-premiere parties — and their crowded open bars and buffets — to return for several months, or possibly until a vaccine emerges.

Pop-up immersive experiences, a growing part of the Hollywood hype machine, may also need a rethink, with the focus now solely on building awareness rather than drawing crowds.

More immediately, with streaming giants such as Netflix and Amazon continuing to launch major titles during lockdown, “virtual” press junkets in which interviews are conducted entirely online are growing in popularity.

15|40 has created a mobile studio in a trailer which can be carted between movie stars’ homes, fitted out with the branding of whichever film or television show is being launched.

Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson attend the 92nd Annual Academy Awards on February 09, 2020 in Hollywood, California. The couple were among the first celebrities to be diagnosed with the virus. GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/File/KEVORK DJANSEZIAN
Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson attend the 92nd Annual Academy Awards on February 09, 2020 in Hollywood, California. The couple were among the first celebrities to be diagnosed with the virus. GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/File/KEVORK DJANSEZIAN

The firm has even drawn up plans for “drive-in” premieres, where celebrities park up in the front row or sit on branded picnic blankets to interact with fans via camera link.

Still, almost all of this year’s biggest blockbusters have been delayed until traditional movie theaters reopen, and publicists are itching to get back to famous venues such as Hollywood Boulevard’s TCL Chinese Theatre for their launch events.

“Let’s be honest, people are tired of being at home,” said Waldman.

While glitzy premieres might jar at a time when people are dying and unemployment is soaring, major entertainment and sport events can provide a welcome distraction for stir-crazy fans, he added.

Christina Aguilera attends Disney's "Mulan" world premiere on March 09, 2020 in Hollywood, California. Some hope entertainment can distract stir-crazy Americans stuck at home. GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/File/Presley Ann
Christina Aguilera attends Disney’s “Mulan” world premiere on March 09, 2020 in Hollywood, California. Some hope entertainment can distract stir-crazy Americans stuck at home. GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/File/Presley Ann

“People right now are kind of starving for something to make their life feel normal.”

The big test will be Warner Bros.’ “Tenet,” the latest mega-budget thriller from director Christopher Nolan (“Inception,” “The Dark Knight,”) who has reportedly pushed hard for it to be the first Hollywood blockbuster back in theaters.

Tellingly, its July 17 US release date has yet to shift.

“I really hope it happens — we know there’s a lot of eyes on it, and we’re excited by it,” said Waldman, who is working on the premiere.

“We spent a lot of time to create the plans we’ve created, to make an environment that’s safe for the studio, for the press, and for the talent… We all want to go back to work as well.”