Bathed in a shower of Swarovski Crystals

The actresses donned their glitziest gowns; the actors wore their ritziest tuxes; host Jimmy Kimmel fired his most brilliant gags; and the banks of cameras released a lightning storm of flashes—but nothing and no one shone brighter than LA’s Dolby Theatre® stage at the Academy Awards on March 4. To mark the 90th Academy Awards, Swarovski and Tony and Emmy-award winning set designer Derek McLane pulled out all the stops to make it a year to remember, lavishing the set with a staggering—wait for it—45 million crystals!

This year is the eleventh awards ceremony for which Swarovski has provided crystal brilliance, so naturally its team understands that an occasion this big—Hollywood’s most glamorous night is televised across more than 225 countries worldwide—requires a whole lot of planning, and then some. So, McLane spent time at Swarovski’s Alpine HQ in Austria to experience first-hand the heritage of its world-renowned crystal. The company’s history goes back to the early days of cinema, when its crystals made their debut in Marlene Dietrich’s Blonde Venus. Since then, Swarovski crystals have played a supporting role in some of film’s most memorable moments, dressing iconic stars from Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz, Marilyn Monroe in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, to Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge!, Natalie Portman in Black Swan and Emma Watson in Beauty and the Beast.

Indeed, heritage is what this special anniversary year is all about. Following his visit, McLane harnessed the creativity, innovation and craftsmanship of Swarovski’s Kristallwelten to develop his design theme: a reflection of cinema’s many eras and a celebration of the history of filmmaking. The light-filled result was truly worthy of the silver screen—a dazzling spectacle of kaleidoscopic, Busby Berkeley proportions. A brand-new proscenium arch was constructed for the theater, created from custom laser-cut octagonal tiles featuring a mix of crystals, metal and mirrors to achieve the complex and beautiful shape. Inside the arch, a shimmering cascade of 80,000 stones made up the signature backdrop curtain, while among the themed sets, nine of the beloved “Floating Oscars” (featuring over 140,000 crystals) made a celebrated return. Guests lucky enough to get one of the eighteen opera boxes (let alone a ticket!) found themselves illuminated by special box dressing using another 23,000 crystals.

For all you data junkies out there: 2017 saw a comparatively modest 200,000 crystals, but this year dazzled with 40 times more than all the previous years combined. It’s also the sixth year that McLane has been responsible for composing this symphony of sparkle, having won a Primetime Emmy Award® for his Oscars telecasts in 2014. It took a team of 32 people more than 3,250 hours over a month to fabricate the arch, which weighed in at 15,500 lbs. Giving roughly 1,750 sq. ft. of crystal coverage, it comprised 554 tiles, 1,182 pyramids and 9,500 facets. The curtain was no less extraordinary, taking 5,000 hours to make and entailing 1,500 Ibs of crystals. How’s that for an Oscar-worthy performance!

The 90th Oscars were held on Sunday, March 4, 2018, at the Dolby Theatre® at Hollywood & Highland Center® in Hollywood, produced by Michael De Luca and Jennifer Todd and hosted by Jimmy Kimmel.