Since Merv Griffin sold the Beverly Hilton in 2003 for $130 million, the new owners estimate they’ve spent $80 million giving Conrad Hilton’s 1955 hotel a much-needed makeover.
There’s no question that the hotel looks better. A walk through the lobby confirms that. But how much of that upgrade benefits a Globes goer? For those who are headed strictly to the ballroom, what difference does it make that every room has a 42-inch flat-screen TV, or “single panel, 20-minute fire doors with bolection molding?”
And maybe this is the way it should be. The BevHilton is first a hotel, and upgrading rooms is the priority. But at least some of that $80 million must have been spent in ways that benefit a nicely profitable side business: leasing out almost every square inch of the premises for the Globes and its after-parties.
How profitable the Globes are to the hotel is tough to ascertain. But one number is public: The Hollywood Foreign Press Assn.’s 2005 tax return says the org paid $324,743 for the “banquet.”
The big money is probably in the five after-parties that are staffed and catered by the Hilton. Costs for each venue begin with an $85,000 down payment and rise from there with charges for security, parking, food and drink.
Perhaps the most striking change for Globes goers will be for those attending the HBO after-party. What was once Griff’s restaurant is now Circa 55. The space was completely redone in a retro-chic, Palm Springs ’50s-style with floor-to-ceiling glass windows overlooking the pool.
“I (used to have) to totally redo the space and hide what was there,” says HBO’s VP of special events Eileen Rivard. “I’m thrilled.”
But while Circa 55 has a new chef, the ballroom is still cranking out the same banquet-style hotel food. The standard for how to serve a ballroom-size crowd was set by Wolfgang Puck at the Academy Awards’ Governors Ball more than 10 years ago. Using two state-of-the-art kitchens — one on each side of the room — Puck is able to serve 1,600 multicourse meals that are as good as anything served in his restaurants.
However, physical changes were made to the ballroom itself. And Globes exec producer Barry Adelman says the added space is a big help.
“More room on the stage allows our art director to get more dramatic looks and depth,” says Adelman. “More room in the ballroom lets our cameras navigate freely. The way we produce the show, we want to give the viewers the experience of being there. We like a lot of audience shots.”
Last year, a change was made in how many Globes after-parties were held in the hotel’s Executive Meeting Center area, and that change is being carried over. Once again, there will be only one party rather than two in that part of the building. This greatly improved access, since both venues had shared the same packed corridor as an entryway.
The hotel says it made changes in how it handles parking after October’s American Cinematheque award dinner, which could be mercifully described as a “parking meltdown.” Everything went wrong: not enough spaces, not enough valets and not a clue how to handle the situation.
The hotel says it’s remedied the situation with a new parking plan and new valets, but for better or worse, this won’t affect the Globes, since a completely different arrival and parking system is used on Globes night.
In the long term, the BevHilton plans to spend $500 million for three new buildings and to upgrade the entire property into a resortlike environment.