And the Oscar goes to ... security

Unprecedented measures taken as ceremony returns to Hollywood

— All you amateur stargazers out there, be forewarned: You're not invited to Sunday's Oscars program in Hollywood.

An unprecedented series of security measures involving a small army of law enforcement officers and private security guards � including the closing of the MTA subway station underneath the new Kodak Theatre � will make it next to impossible for the uninvited to crash the party.

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AP Photo

A woman walks by bleacher seats erected for fans near the entrance to the new Kodak Theater in Hollywood in preparation for Sunday's 74th annual Academy Awards. Fans who want to watch the stars arrive on the red carpet this year had to apply for bleacher seats and submit to a security check.

"If people say, 'Hey, let's drive down to Hollywood to see what we can see,"' says John Pavlik, spokesman for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, "they'll just clog traffic. They'll see it much better on television."

All the security, which includes street closures in the area, has caused some concern among Hollywood merchants, who had hoped to cash in from Sunday's big party. But most think the day's headaches will be brief and hope the longtime effect of the Oscars returning to Tinseltown will be more visitors and more profits.

It was 1960 when the Oscar ceremony was last in Hollywood, then at the Pantages Theatre. Although many of the same security precautions subsequently were carried out at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in downtown Los Angeles and at the Shrine Auditorium south of downtown, law enforcement officials acknowledge that extraordinary security will be enforced on Sunday.

For example, looky-loos no longer may claim coveted bleacher seats by camping out days in advance. This year, 500 fans clamoring for the privilege had to fill out an application form. Then they underwent background checks by private security personnel hired by the motion picture academy.

People who were cleared get to sit in the bleachers.

Another major security measure is the closing all day Sunday of the MTA Red Line subway stop at Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue. Academy officials say it's a prudent thing to do.

The Red Line will be operating as usual on Sunday, but the trains just won't stop at Hollywood and Highland.

The reason for all the security is easy enough to understand, especially in the wake of September's attacks. But Pavlik notes that the Oscars have cast an eye toward increased security since the Persian Gulf War in the early 1990s.

"That was the triggering event for us," he says, noting it was then when metal detectors were first used at the Oscars.

This year's venue � a new, glitzy, high-profile facility in an urban setting � required more thought and precautions than the recent Oscar shows at the Dorothy Chandler and the Shrine. Those venues presented few problems because they are located in less-congested spots.

Ranking Los Angeles police commanders and motion picture academy officials declined to detail their strategic planning for Sunday. What they will say is that several law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, have been in close communication to coordinate their activities at Hollywood and Highland. Some federal agents have gone as far as taking over rooms at one Hollywood hostel across the street from the Kodak � affording visitors a good view of Hollywood and Highland.

Because of this year's security measures, it has been suggested that some celebrities won't even show up at the Oscars.

Nonsense, says the academy. The major Oscar nominees have said they'll be there, as well as singer-songwriter Enya and Sting, who will perform their Oscar-nominated songs.

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