Fans whooped and cheered as celebrities strolling the red carpet had their images displayed on a giant video screen Sunday and the Academy Awards returned to Hollywood for the first time since 1960.
"It's wonderful it's come back to Hollywood," said Julian Fellowes, nominated for best original screenplay for Gosford Park.
This year's ceremony also inaugurated a new home, the $90-million Kodak Theatre, less than a block from the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, where the first Oscars were presented in 1929. The awards were last handed out in Hollywood 42 years ago at the Pantages Theater.
"It's really thrilling to be here," said director Robert Altman's wife, Kathryn, who graduated from Hollywood High School, just around the corner from the new theater.
The switch to Hollywood from the Shrine Auditorium near downtown Los Angeles, scene of recent Oscar ceremonies, also seemed to energize fans.
Though only 400 were allowed in the bleacher section along the red carpet because of tightened security, thousands showed up outside police barricades hoping to glimpse their favorite stars. Early in the afternoon, they were treated to entertainment from a couple of Cirque du Soleil performers, but the real draw was clear.
"I got my wish. I just saw Russell Crowe," said Pam Sparrow of Los Angeles.
To some fans, the scene was a bit overwhelming. Mixed with the estimated 2,500 fans was a small army of police that included SWAT teams on rooftops.
"It's very L.A. It's too crowded," said Anouchka Van Riel, who just moved to Los Angeles from Paris. "I'm going home to watch it on TV."
Actor Jodie Foster, who grew up 10 blocks from the Kodak Theatre site, said it was exciting that the awards show had returned to Hollywood.
"The little ice cream place is up the street, I remember," she said.
Robert Altman, a best director nominee for Gosford Park, said the Oscars provide a great party no matter where they're held: "It's always fun."
Celebrities dressed in their finest designer clothes headed down 500 feet of red carpet to the theater.
Actor Sally Kirkland arrived in a metal-alloy dress accessorized with adjustable ruffles. She used a push-button device to move the ruffles around her body.
"I had fun when I went through the metal detector," she quipped.
For all that has been said about the extensive security, it didn't seem to dampen the festivities. Joan Rivers reported on E! that there was no backup at the entrances, and Nicole Kidman said she spent very little time going through the security checkpoint.