MOVIES | Minnesotans roll out the red carpet, plan viewing parties for the Oscars


HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA—”The Academy Awards are the hottest ticket in town,” the taxi driver said on my way to the Kodak Theater, site of the 82nd annual show. But Minnesotans won’t need to travel out west to enjoy the Oscars. The red carpet is being rolled out at several Minnesota locations.While the only local Academy-sanctified celebration is Oscar Night America, put on by the Aegis Foundation at the Hotel Ivy, that hasn’t stopped other Awards events from springing up.

Indeed, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences encourages and promotes an “Oscar Party Kit to Throw Your Own Oscar Viewing Party”—complete with a cocktail recipe named “The Red Carpet Fizz.” Even Oscar’s Master Chef Wolfgang Puck includes a video on how to make “Smoked Salmon Blinis.” The site includes insider tips on “how to host an Oscar party that is affordable, fun, and fabulous.”

For the first time this year, the Fergus Falls Center for the Arts is hosting an “Awards Night” on Sunday. The Center shows many Oscar-nominated films during the year.

“We will be projecting the live telecast on the big screen,” says Kristin Fondriest, the center’s production assistant.  “For a number of years, people have requested we do this.”

Fondriest points out that although it’s not an official Oscar-approved party, the event will have a red carpet, paparazzi, food, and door prizes for the best dressed. Their tuxedo-clad MC is local Fergus Falls teacher Hal Johnson. Musicians from the area will perform live chamber music, including movie scores. Ballots will be distributed for guests to vote on who they think will win. The Center’s Youth Advisory Committee got involved by organizing and helping put it together.

“It has the potential of being a really fun event,” says Fondriest. “I am definitely dressing up. I myself am really interested in film and movies so I think it’s great that I will be with a bunch of people like me on Awards night.” There is no charge to attend the Fergus Falls event, she said, but reservations are encouraged.

The Theaters at the Mall of America are putting on a “VIP Oscar Party” on Awards night. Patrons age 21 and up will have access to live viewing on a 40-foot screen.

“This is the first time we are [showing] the Oscars,” says Joe Carslon, theater operations manager. “We will have the very rarely present red carpet going all the way down the hallway. We use the red carpet only when stars come up here, like Kevin James of Mall Cop. It’s also the first time we will be serving mixed drinks instead of just wine and beer. We will have an actual bartender.”

The theater’s event includes a fashion show and makeovers, swag bags, Oscar trivia, and prizes. The only way to get in is with a “golden ticket” available through emailing the theater and stating why you want to walk the red carpet.

“It’s going to be a fun party and an alternative to watching the Academy Awards,” says Dan Jasper, public relations manager for the Mall of America.

Lucinda Winter of the Minnesota Film Board says this will be a good year to tune in. “There are a bunch of reasons to watch the Oscars this year. Joel and Ethan Coen’s A Serious Man was all filmed here and is nominated for two Oscars,” she says.

Nominees with local roots are Bloomington’s Pete Docter of Up and Food, Inc. which is nominated for Best Documentary. Food, Inc. was produced by River Road Entertainment, which is owned by Bill Pohlad. Nominated films Young Victoria and Bright Star are also affiliated with Pohlad.

Patrick Corcoran of the National Association of Theater Owners says while 2008 was a good year for movie ticket sales, 2009 was better. Even before the popular Avatar, box office receipts totaled 4.1 billion, he says. Then, Avatar was released. “This past year, for the first time, there were over 10 billion dollars in ticket sales,” he says.

Corcoran said recession-weary Americans may explain the increase in box office transactions. “People are cutting expenses and looking for cheaper leisure activities closer to home. The economy is part of it and what films are out there, that determines it,” he says. “The last seven or eight recessions the box office attendance went up. People are looking for the least expensive form of entertainment and that is the movies.”

Winter thinks one reason movie ticket sales are strong in Minnesota has more to do with our cold weather. “Especially this winter,” she said.


Academy Awards viewing parties Sunday, March 7. Hours vary, check with the venue.


“VIP Oscars Party 2010.” Theatres Mall of America and Metromix.

“Awards Night.” Fergus Falls Center for the Arts.

“Oscar Night America.” Aegis Foundation.

“Oscar Party Kit.” The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Web site.