The annual Night Before party, held on Oscar eve at the Beverly Hills Hotel, continues its ascent as the hottest pre-Academy Awards ticket. This year’s event has raised more than $6 million, up from $4 million last year.
Proceeds from the party benefit the Motion Picture & Television Fund. The Night Before accounts for more than a third of the $15 million the MPTF has raised over the last year.
“The numbers are staggering, given the fact that (the Night Before) didn’t exist four years ago,” said MPTF chief exec Ken Scherer.
Because of fire marshal-enforced safety requirements, guest list is limited to about 800. Among those who will be attending are Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, George Clooney, Jamie Foxx, Hilary Swank and Night Before host Jeffrey Katzenberg.
Producers, directors, studio executives and lawyers also will be part of the crowd. The only non-invitees are press agents and members of the press — an attempt to keep things more personal and low-key.
“What we set out to do four years ago was provide an environment where people could talk and have conversations,” Scherer said. “We wanted to make it a real community effort.”
The Night Before was started by Katzenberg and Variety in 2002 as a charitable solution to what was always a fairly dull evening in Hollywood — the night before the Oscars, when industryites are typically recovering from Friday night events, such as Ed Limato’s pre-Oscar party, and preparing for post-Oscar fetes, such as the Vanity Fair party and the Governors Ball, held on Sunday.
Another tradition is the Night Before the Night Before, on Friday, when there’ll be a dinner at Spago for sponsors. Border Grill chef-owners Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger will be on hand to teach guests how to make tamales; Mariah Carey will perform after dinner.
The number of Night Before corporate sponsors has grown by two and includes Variety, McDonald’s, L’Oreal, Lexus, Hewlett-Packard, Target and AOL.
Scherer said the surge in raised funds resulted from the increase in sponsors, which each contribute $350,000, and from a greater number of contributors who made a five-year commitment of $10,000 a year to the MPTF (in exchange for getting their names placed on retirement cottages on the fund’s Woodland Hills campus).
Tickets to the Night Before start at $25,000 for a group of four.
Katzenberg also has rallied to raise money.
“He’s the man,” Scherer said of the DreamWorks Animation head. “Jeffrey and (wife) Marilyn both step up and give the same amount that sponsors give. More importantly, his passion for this charity is so strong — he just spends hours calling people and making sure people support the organization, which is so critical to our success.”
Besides charity, of course, there’s swag, and the Night Before ranked high on the free goodies list last year, with guests taking away expensive sneakers and computers. This year Lexus is giving away a car, Hewlett-Packard has donated 58-inch plasma TVs and color printers and AOL is giving away a Fender guitar.
The nonprofit MPTF, headquartered in Woodland Hills, was founded in 1921 to offer charitable relief for those in the film industry who had fallen on hard times. Today, the fund provides the industry with a full-scale residential retirement community and child-care center, as well as health care, human services and financial assistance.