By Bria Balliet
Situated within Loews Hollywood Hotel’s impressive grounds is a nondescript door that leads to a nondescript hall. It remains shut for the majority of the year, unnoticed by most. The lucky few that find themselves staying at the hotel during the days leading up to the Academy Awards, however, may see the door open, revealing the passageway alive with activity.
Leading directly to the stage of the Ray Dolby Ballroom, this corridor is the bridge between the iconic Tinseltown hotel and the Dolby Theatre, where the Academy Awards and the corresponding Governors Ball take place each year. “During [Oscars] night and during production … that is typically the only time during the year the door is open, joining us to the facility,” explains James Howald, VIP manager at Loews Hollywood Hotel. “So it really becomes a very symbiotic, fully connected operation.” The link between these two historic spaces has been the basis for a solid partnership between Loews and the entertainment venue, and the hotel’s team pulls out all the stops each year to accommodate the influx of Dolby executives and film industry professionals.
“As the VIP manager, it’s certainly my favorite time of the year,” explains Howald, whose responsibilities include coordinating much of the Academy Awards action at Loews. “All of our meeting space is dedicated to the production and, essentially, all 112 of our junior suites become dressing rooms and backstage facilities for the production. It’s a very high-energy environment.”
This energy, coupled with the famous faces making their way in and out of the hotel, means that all rooms are booked far in advance for the days leading up to the awards ceremony. But those fortunate enough to snag a room are in for a treat, as the hotel is open solely to registered guests and those involved with the Oscars during this time.
Though booking a room won’t get guests walking down the red carpet next to Meryl Streep, those who don’t have tickets to the show are still able to experience plenty of the accompanying excitement. More than 2,000 drinks are served in the lobby lounge following the show, and Loews Hollywood Hotel’s newly renovated H2 Kitchen & Bar becomes packed with guests and event staff during the live viewing party where guests watch the ceremony on the bar’s jumbo TV. “It is surreal and fun for [me] to see on that screen something that’s happening live,” Howald says of the experience. “To know that dress [on screen] was just being put on in the hallway over here two minutes ago, or to know that person just walked offstage and is now, as we speak, in the ballroom two stories above us—there’s a kind of surreal excitement.”
And to play such a huge role in Hollywood’s biggest night is not something that Howald—or the rest of the Loews staff—takes for granted. “When you think about it, for the winners, it’s obviously a life-changing night,” he says. “To have that kind of moment happening within our hotel [and] around our team—it’s pretty great.”