LOS ANGELES, March 18 (UPI) -- The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced in Beverly Hills, Calif., Tuesday that the Academy Awards will go on Sunday without a red carpet arrival line.
"Keeping in mind the world situation," telecast producer Gil Cates said, "the academy has elected to prepare a more sober pre-show and a scaled-back arrivals sequence."
Appearing at a news conference with academy President Frank Pierson, Cates said: "First of all, we all are continuing to work diligently to put the 75th Academy Awards on the air at 5:30 p.m. Pacific Time this coming Sunday, March 23."
Cates spoke one day after issuing a statement saying only that the Oscars "are scheduled to proceed Sunday." Months of speculation about the prospect of a U.S.-led war in Iraq came into sharp focus Monday when President George W. Bush ordered Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to leave Iraq within 48 hours -- or face an invasion at an unspecified time after that.
At Tuesday's news conference, Cates said that with America "on the brink of war ... we must prepare for the show to be produced under those circumstances." Pierson said the academy wanted to avoid doing "something that looked self-serving or frivolous on a night when troops are in bloody combat."
Cates said the traditional red carpet arrivals line would be "truncated" -- and parts of the arrivals press line outside the Kodak Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard would be eliminated. Guests arriving by limousine will not stop for interviews or photographs, and will enter the theater at the point where the end of the red carpet would have been.
Cates said the academy is aware that many of celebrities would not want to face a "business-as-usual phalanx of interviewers and photographers" as the country was beginning a war in the Middle East.
"We got a bunch of calls already from celebrities asking if they can come in the back door rather than go down the red carpet, and it's just silly to do that," he said.
Cates said it was the first time in the Academy Awards 75-year history that the red carpet arrivals had been canceled. The academy has postponed the Oscars three times -- in 1938 due to floods in Los Angeles; in 1968 due to the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.; and in 1981 due to the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan.
Arrangements will be made to provide some TV pool coverage of arrivals. Cates left the door open for a possible postponement of the telecast.
"We are continuing our efforts to bring the show together on Sunday, but we do understand that ABC may adjust to war coverage if it is required and that ABC News will cover news as it happens," he said. "Any such decisions in regard to broadcasting the show will be made later in the week, and will be made jointly by the academy and ABC.
Cates has consistently said that if there is a war on, ABC might break in with news updates or run a crawl across the bottom of the screen with war news.
"It's nothing that the network hasn't done consistently over the years," said Cates.
In response to a question, Pierson said there was no way to know right now whether the show would definitely go on.
"All of us in this room are at the mercy of the winds of war and we just don't know," he said. "Of course there could be conceivable circumstances (that would cause the show to be postponed) but to guess what they are ... I think is useless speculation at this point."
Cates said the show would reflect the times in which it is being presented.
"The public wants it," he said. "The stars want it. We're all good Americans as well, and we're all trying to bridge the gap so that ... it will be a show that we will be proud of and the troops ... will be proud of it too.
"The real disappointment, when you think about it, has to be for the 500 fan who otherwise would be there screaming on the red carpet," said Cates. "I think it would be inappropriate to have 500 fans standing there yelling 'Julia' or 'Tom.'"
Any decision on postponement is perhaps most complicated for ABC, which has sold out its inventory of telecast commercials at $1.3 million per 30-second spot. After the Super Bowl, the Academy Awards telecast is the most-watched TV show of the year.
If the network decides to postpone the telecast, it might not be able to compensate for the loss of that much revenue on a rescheduled Oscars show.
The Oscars telecast is not the only challenge facing Hollywood this weekend, as war seems to approach.
Studios have four major releases opening on Friday, and some executives are concerned that Americans will be so preoccupied with TV coverage of the war that movie attendance will be down. The new arrivals are "Boat Trip" starring Cuba Gooding Jr.; "A View from the Top" starring Gwyneth Paltrow; "Dreamcatcher" starring Morgan Freeman; and "Piglet's Big Movie," the new animated feature from Disney.