Industrywide cutbacks hit holiday bashes

Don’t expect all the usual trimmings on the Hollywood party circuit this holiday season.

Showbiz party planners have begun to scale back soirees as part of industrywide belt-tightening. Several congloms have cancelled their holiday bashes, while others are simply toning down the revelry. After-preem bashes are also being reassessed in this economy.

“It would be foolish if we weren’t taking a look at it,” one studio exec said.

However, scaling back preem parties is especially tricky for studios, which are bowing their biggest awards contenders in coming weeks. Number crunchers may not feel like celebrating right now, but studio execs maintain that it’s in their best interest to give these pics a nice sendoff.

“We still need to make a splash,” said one studio event planner. “We still need to make our filmmakers and talent happy.”

The big challenge is how to wield the budget ax in a way that won’t alienate the A-list or compromise the promotional value of the event. One catering exec who’s done scores of premieres says he’s being asked to do more for less, and the only choice is “to get creative” when the food budget is cut.

“The shrimp are in hors d’oeuvres instead of a buffet,” he said. “You cut back on things that take an inordinate amount of labor.”

Premieres also drive publicity, so in order to generate that publicity at lower costs, “what you’re going to see are more premieres at the Academy with a relatively inexpensive reception in the lobby and then a couple big, themed parties every quarter,” a planner said.

Another way to keep preems from getting too lean is to bring in more sponsorship. But that can be a slippery promo slope.

“You don’t want the product to suffer just to get some extra bucks,” said a planner.

Annual holiday bashes are considered more expendable. Disney and Viacom won’t be getting festive this year. Universal will let individual divisions decide how merry to get this holiday season. Sony, which usually has a tented party, will throw its bash on Main Street, increasing staffers’ holiday cheer by giving them the days off between Christmas and New Years.

Others are proceeding with their usual revelry. Overture hosted its annual open house earlier this week at Chris McGurk’s house. And Showtime will throw its holiday party for execs and talent on Dec. 4 at an estate in Hancock Park.

Undeterred by the economy, the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television is bowing a benefit gala titled “One Night Only… With a Little Help From Our Friends” at Royce Hall on Dec. 2. It will be hosted by Rita Wilson and Tom Hanks and feature a Nora Ephron-directed perf of “You Can’t Take It With You” starring the couple.

Casual get-togethers could also fall victim to the sour mood this holiday season; restaurants have been noticeably emptier at lunchtime lately.

But if they think it will help their cause, showbiz denizens will continue to tie one on. “We still have a business to run,” one exec said.

Tentpole films will probably still have relatively big premieres. However, “you’re not going to see a one-quadrant movie getting a big lavish event,” an event planner said.

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