Behind-the-scenes businesses boom as Oscars hit town

By Leila Macor, AFP

HOLLYWOOD–The Oscars are big business for stars and filmmakers — but they also spell big bucks for limo firms, caterers, designers and thousands of others as Hollywood rolls out the red carpet. In fact, the Academy Awards on Sunday are the climax of the annual awards season which generates fortunes for those behind the scenes in Tinseltown, who keep the champagne flowing, parties buzzing and posh frocks just right.

From the Golden Globes to the Grammys, the Screen Actors Guild ceremony to the Razzies, the awards shows — and all those pre- and after-parties, keep everyone busy from November to February every year. You don’t have to go far to stumble on a red carpet in Hollywood — even outside awards season, film premieres regularly attract scrums of cameramen, photographers and fans spilling across sidewalks outside key movie theaters.

So a visit to the cinema can sometimes turn into a scramble through a melee created by an arriving celebrity, lensmen’s flashlights and shouts of “Angelina, over here!” ricocheting around the cinema lobby. But Angelinos are used to it, and many depend on it for their livelihoods, as — like the annual harvest elsewhere — the first two months of the year bring huge crops of orders for everything that surrounds the shows. Tony Adzar, founder & CEO of Red Carpet Systems, is one of those reaping the benefits: in February, he sells twice as much carpet as he does in August, and his is only one of dozens of similar firms.

“January and February are the busiest months of the year for us. We do service most of the majors, pre- and after-parties for the Golden Globes, Grammys, Oscars,” he told AFP. “On average we have 12-15 events a month, and in awards season, 20-25 events a month,” he added, saying they make between US$150,000-250,000 a month in awards season — double the takings at other times of the year.

To get to the parties, people of course need limousines. “It takes most of the companies in the Los Angeles and Orange County area to handle the volume created by the major award shows,” said Jonna Sabroff, head of Integrated Transportation Services (ITS). The larger companies, which have a fleet of maybe 25 luxury vehicles, “are booked to capacity and are able to give their affiliates and subcontractors a lot of business,” she added.

ITS works closely with Sequoia Productions, which has organized Hollywood events for 23 years and produces the traditional post-Oscars soiree known as the Governors Ball. The ball brings together the governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which organizes the Oscars. On Sunday night, 1,500 people will attend. For Sunday’s ball alone, Sequoia employs 150 technicians, 400 catering staff and a management team of 30. The company unveiled its menu last week, chosen by Austrian celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck, also an Oscars veteran. “We have been working on the Governors Ball and the other Oscar-related events for the past six months,” said Gary Levitt, vice president of Sequoia Productions. Red Carpet provider Adzar said awards season is exhausting, but essential for his and many other businesses in Hollywood. “We love to be busy!” he said.