BevHilton has no qualms about charging sky-high fees

On Globes night, having a half-dozen parties under one roof (or on it) allows guests to glide among fiestas, giving the evening a special charm.

However, the studios picking up the party tabs aren’t in the same festive mood. They have two main beefs: the contractual requirement to have their parties done by Merv Griffin Prods. (Griffin owns kudos host the BevHilton; MGP is a separate corporate arm) and the sky-rocketing costs. As an example, just the deposit for one after-party space has risen from $15,000 in 2002 to $36,500 in ’03.

A number of sources say the cost of their Globes parties is between $350 and $500 per guest. This would be much more than what an average (though not a “Spider-Man” mega-event) premiere costs. For a midrange preem, numbers vary from $100 to $200 per head.

Miramax’s Harvey Weinstein was said to be so furious over the year-to-year price inflation that last year he threatened to have his party across the street at the Peninsula Hotel.

“When there’s a contract lock on a place, the studios aren’t allowed to wield their free-market power to have things executed the way they want,” says one party planner, who compares the situation to what occurs at a convention center. “They’re being charged prices not consistent with the market.”

While this forced marriage between MGP and the studios has produced a litany of complaints, the BevHilton’s owner is not backing down.

“The studios would love to use their own event people to do their parties and I say no,” Griffin says. “There’s a security problem with using outside people and the studios do exactly the same thing on their own lot.”

The studios argue that if you’re having a wedding at the hotel, you don’t have to hire MGP to decorate the ballroom, do the lighting and hire a florist. You use a company of your choosing, and the hotel provides food and drink.

In response, MGP exec VP Mike Eyre says the situation on Globes night is unique.

“The number of vendors, the security issues, the load-in problems could be a potential nightmare. It could be disruptive to both the hotel and what we do. Having one overall production entity that approves and oversees all the vendors simplifies the communication and administration.”

Despite the hotel’s position, the studios feel they’re entirely capable of arranging and coordinating their own parties. And, of course, there are financial implications: Whoever produces the party pockets the discounts from the rental companies that provide everything from tables and chairs to hedges and heat lamps.

“With that much bulk rental, the whole group should be getting a discount,” says one planner.

“There is no room for monopolies in this town,” says another event planner. “Each one of us uses our own vendors again and again for events throughout the year, which gives us the benefit of getting discounts from them. At the Globes, you don’t have that opportunity.”

Eyre says discounts are reflected in the billing to each client.

Rental dilemma

Another complaint is that when an agreement is made with the BevHilton to provide food and drink for a party, there’s usually no rental charge for the space. As long as the food and beverage minimums are being met, rental is included as part of the catering costs.

However, the hotel in 2001 began charging between $5,000 and $10,000 for the party spaces (conference rooms, the parking lot roof, pool area) in addition to the catering costs. Plus the food and beverage minimums were set so high, one studio decided to splurge on expensive champagne just to hit the minimums.

Costly set-ups

The hotel says the rental costs are to cover the revenue forfeited during the setup days. As an example, parking fees are lost when the garage roof is used for party tents. And concerning food and beverage, the BevHilton says this is regular menu pricing.

“It’s a two-way street,” says Griffin. “If you go to a studio and rent places on their lot, see what you get charged. I want to make some money on these, too. I’m not in business to take a loss on these parties.”

Studios are unhappy about the level of service the hotel is able to provide with the Globe banquet and up to eight parties going on the same night.

“Not only do I get raped on the site fee, not only do I get ripped-off on the production, but as a bartender I get some bus boy who doesn’t speak English or know how to make a martini,” says one studio’s event planner.

To this, Griffin replies: “Bartenders who don’t speak English know what bourbon, scotch and champagne are.”

The studios also don’t like the parking situation.

If a guest is coming to three parties at the hotel, each studio has to pay, even though it’s only one car parking only one time. A parking charge is assessed multiple times for each party for which they’ve been invited.

Plus, last year several guests complained that the hotel charged them when they arrived even though the studios were picking up the tab.

The hotel says it’s not aware of duplication in guest lists.

Add on to this last year’s additional $5,000 per-party post-9/11 security charge, and while the guests may have been gleeful, the hosts were not.

However, Griffin indicates that he didn’t plan to make any changes.

“Tell them to take their Golden Globes parties elsewhere,” he says. “They’ve done it in the past. They don’t have to come to the Beverly Hilton for their parties. Tell them to come over and run a hotel some time. At least you can drive into my hotel. You can’t drive into any of the studios.”

Finding a new locale

Though the most likely venue for the Globes — if the whole shebang left the BevHilton — would be the Century Plaza, this year there’s a new locale that could easily host under one roof the award ceremony and the after-parties.

The Kodak Theater can be configured as a banquet hall with catering by Wolfgang Puck. And the Hollywood & Highland complex offers more than enough venues for postaward celebrations.

The deal killer is the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. AMPAS has veto power over any film award show held at the Kodak and is very protective of its site.

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