LOS ANGELES — It’s during the commercial breaks that the audience inside the Dolby Theatre really comes to life on Oscar night.
The stars will gladly play for the cameras posted in their face during the global broadcast – they are actors after all – but a lot of the time it seems like most would rather just talk to their fellow artists in the room.
The breaks may go on for an eternity for people watching the Oscars at home but in the Dolby, they’re never long enough as stars on the main floor abruptly end conversations and rush to take their seats again.
The beginning of the show is always a scramble as security, organizers and a booming voice of god all try to coax attendees to their seats in time for the live broadcast start. Some barely made it in, like “The Last of Us” and “The Mandalorian” star Pedro Pascal, whose handler pleaded to let him in because of his appearance in host Jimmy Kimmel’s monologue, while others, like Elizabeth Banks, seem to have been shut out of the opening moments. She was led in the room during the first break, walking past supporting actor nominee Brian Tyree Henry, who had made his way up to Cate Blanchett a few rows ahead.
A few minutes later, Henry was one of the first to jump to his feet to cheer for Ke Huy Quan, who won in their category, as Quan’s co-star Michelle Yeoh wiped a tear away from the front row. One person even stood for the end of Quan’s speech: Harry Shum Jr.
After his loss, Henry was in good spirits in the lobby. He made his way over to Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Martin McDonagh. He asked for a photo with Waller-Bridge, which McDonagh then dutifully snapped.
Back in the room, as Jamie Lee Curtis took the stage to accept her supporting actress prize, Cate Blanchett put her hands over her mouth and made prayer hands toward the newly anointed Oscar winner.
Audience members were briefly concerned as what appeared to be smoke billowed up in front of Curtis during her speech. But all breathed a sigh of relief to realize that it was merely a part of the next act, a performance from Sofia Carson.
During the next break, Blanchett beelined over to fellow Australian Nicole Kidman to give her a big hug, and Kidman did the same later with Austin Butler.
Outside of the theater in the lobby Miles Teller hung by the bar with his wife, while Bill Nighy took a quick bathroom break. And in another part of the room, filmmaker Rian Johnson shared a laugh with Hugh Grant, who made a cameo in his nominated movie “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery.”
The lobby was quite chilly, but at least a few came prepared with layers: Rooney Mara had a red coat to put over her dress and Andrea Riseborough put a black leather jacket over her pale pink gown, which she wore through the end of the ceremony.
At the bar, best actor nominee Paul Mescal made some new friends for a few moments. As they debated whether or not they should order tequila, a fan approached Mescal in line to ask for a photo.
“Is a selfie ok?” Mescal asked, snapping the pic himself.
A few feet away, Mescal's “Aftersun” director Charlotte Wells spent most of the ceremony in the lobby, sipping on a beer
In another corner, Rooney Mara chatted with her “Women Talking” co-star Jessie Buckley. And over on a hard-to-come-by couch, 84-year-old “EO” director Jerzy Skolimowski sat by himself snacking on the popcorn and trail mix available for guests.
In the ladies’ room, Yeoh and Sandra Oh were walking arm and arm to exit, while Florence Pugh was a bit delayed. She needed a little help drying her hands in her voluminous dress.
“I’m dripping, I’m dripping,” she said with a laugh, her arms extended as far as they could go out in front of her.
Moments later at the bar, Pugh sidled up next to Cara Delevingne, both with trains that extended feet behind them, as they whispered to one another. The act of turning around to leave was not as straightforward as they may have anticipated.
“To follow each other it takes like ten minutes,” Pugh said.
As the night wears on, the lobby gets a bit shinier as more and more winners come out with more and more Oscars in hand, but it also gets a bit less starry as the bigger names of the night make their way back into the room for the final categories.
Some, hungry from the long show, took advantage of the “snack boxes” under every seat with a pretzel, a bottle of water and various types of movie theater candy, from Junior Mints to Raisinets.
During one of the last breaks, Kerry Condon hugged “Everything Everywhere All At Once” directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert as they came back to the room, best original screenplay Oscars in hand, as Michelle Williams stretched her legs a few feet away.
Michelle Yeoh was one who didn’t have time to make it back to her seat between winning the best actress award and when Harrison Ford announced that “Everything Everywhere All At Once” had won best picture. So, she emerged from the wings of the stage to join her cast and crew at the microphone for the last award of the night.
Many choose to linger in the Dolby Theatre for a bit, but others were eager to move on to the Governors Ball, Vanity Fair and various other gatherings where press and photographers are not invited. For stars on Oscar night, the show is often just the first stop.