You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Bust a budget move

The biz still wants to rock out, but for less money

To paraphrase “Sunset Boulevard’s” Norma Desmond: In Hollywood, the parties are still big; it’s the budgets that have gotten smaller.

Even in today’s economic climate, event planners are expected to cut through the noise of competing events and wow a very jaded audience. Imagination in execution and financing is the new standard.

“You can do big events in creative ways by cost-sharing elements,” says vet event planner Chad Hudson, president of Chad Hudson Events.

Hudson helped broker cooperation between two distribs (Universal and Summit), the Los Angeles Film Festival and the Nokia Theater to lower costs on three events at the fest, including the afterparty for 3,000 for the “Twilight Saga: Eclipse” premiere, which he produced. To do this, one site — downtown’s L.A. Live event deck — hosted three major events in a row: the LAFF’s opening night and post-preem parties for “Eclipse” and Universal’s “Despicable Me.”

As Hudson explains, to reach the common goal of lower expenses, the companies and entities involved amortized costs of party and screening gear such as power generators, theater sound system, furniture rentals and even the black Astroturf on the ground. L.A. Live also underwrote some improvements such as stairs to its event deck. Synergy, however, takes time: For Hudson and his team, the process of planning the June event began in February.

Corporate sponsors increasingly alleviate costs. “Studios are now welcoming sponsors and co-branding,” says Chris Benarroch, prexy of Benar-roch Prods., which she founded a decade ago after stints planning events inhouse at Fox and MGM. Strategic tie-ins and brand partnerships “allow us to offer the same level of production that clients are used to,” explains Benarroch.

Cosmetics, car and electronics firms often lobby her to align their brands with the high-profile talent indigenous to industry events; she makes sure the co-branding will be organic and tasteful. Benarroch points to Google’s presence at the “Sex in the City 2” premiere: Interactive kiosks allowed guests to create their own personal love stories.

Pleasing industryites is always a challenge. “You’re always trying to better yourself, to create what’s new, exciting and different,” says Samantha Sackler, event planner and president of Events in Motion. “Entertainment clients like to push the envelope, stimulate their guests’ minds and give them an experience,” she says, while keeping costs in check, of course. To maximize budgets she works closely with vendors. “Everyone is willing to negotiate at this point,” she adds.

Choosing a party’s layout can also make or break a budget.

At the Warner Bros. “Inception” premiere, Sackler kept the party free-flowing, avoiding a stale ballroom look by adding casual lounge-style furniture and communal tables and making use of higher tables with bar stools as seating. Opting out of linens saved money.

“Furniture rental firms, caterers, florists — everyone is willing to listen and cut deals,” says Sackler.

Utilizing an existing venue comes at a fraction of the cost of transforming a parking lot and building a space from scratch, Benarroch notes. By configuring new lighting, nightclubs, restaurants and hotels’ grand spaces can be dramatically remade. The Sunset Tower’s event space is a popular choice (the “Killers” afterparty and Vanity Fair’s Oscar fete both used this space), as is the Chateau Marmont (the “Precious” premiere party and “Mad Men” Golden Globes afterparty set up here) — and with limited square footage, exclusivity prompts smaller guest lists.

“Even in these tough economic times, we deliver the same caliber of product,” says Benarroch. Extensive press coverage and exposure coupled with VIP guests means that vendors are willing to deal.

“I always try to find something that people will take away from an event and talk about,” says Hudson. “I come up with one element that is the wow factor, an aspect that is completely different or unique” whether it’s a new venue, performance or film-inspired vignette, such as real wolves parading through the “The Twilight Saga: New Moon” afterparty or the misty lake and full moon that were the central setpiece of “Eclipse’s” post-preem celebration.

That attention to visual detail and the guest experience pays off in enthusiastic praise from guests. Relativity Media’s Ryan Kavanaugh says the Kodak Ballroom, which was turned into a Russian nightclub for “Salt’s” afterparty, “matched the size and scope of film.” And no higher kudos can an event planner expect than helmer Christopher Nolan’s review of Sackler’s “Inception” preem: “The party exceeded my expectations,” Nolan almost gushed.

Bling on a shoestring
Event producer Chad Hudson gave the “Eclipse” premiere a luxe look on a budget

The “Eclipse” preem at the Los Angeles Film Festival shared costs with other entities that used the Nokia Plaza and outdoor party deck later in the festival for parties and events.

Event producers advise to focus on one “wow” moment at an event. A full moon and misty lake was showcased at the “Eclipse” afterparty.

Guests could mingle around the stark white furniture and minimalist foliage of the tented “Eclipse” afterparty.

The rooftop deck at the Nokia dressed up for the “Eclipse” preem party after being used for the LAFF’s opening-night soiree.

More TV

  • Mira Sorvino Rory Culkin

    TV News Roundup: Mira Sorvino, Rory Culkin Join Quibi Series 'Emma'

    In today’s TV news roundup, Quibi announces new cast members for horror series “Emma” and Nickelodeon renews “Blue’s Clues and You!”  CASTINGS Academy Award winner Mira Sorvino and Rory Culkin have been cast in supporting roles in Quibi’s latest horror series “Emma.” The two are joined by Hannah Murray (“Game of Thrones”) and Michael Gaston (“Man [...]

  • Emilia Clarke

    Emilia Clarke Says She's Been Pressured to Do Nude Scenes After 'Game of Thrones'

    Emilia Clarke revealed that she’s been pressured to do nude scenes on projects following her role as the occasionally nude Daenerys Targaryen on “Game of Thrones.” Now a seasoned actor, Clarke is quick to shut down producers who won’t respect her boundaries. “I’m a lot savvier with what I’m comfortable with, and what I am [...]

  • CBS Makes Streaming News Available to

    CBS Makes Streaming News Available to Affiliates

    Any news junkie in need of a live-Information fix can toggle on to any number of streaming news outlets. Now, TV stations affiliated with CBS can do the same. CBS News told affiliates in a memo Tuesday that it would allow them to use live coverage from its CBSN streaming-video hub to keep news events [...]

  • Baby Yoda The Mandalorian

    The Star of 'The Mandalorian:' Baby Yoda

    SPOILER ALERT: This story contains spoilers for the first two episodes of “The Mandalorian,” if wish to be surprised you do, only annoyance will you find.  BB-8 and the Ewoks can step aside with the latest expansion of the “Star Wars” universe with Disney Plus’s “The Mandalorian.” There’s a new addition to the long list [...]

  • Vikings S4 Finale

    'Vikings' Sequel Series Set at Netflix From Michael Hirst, Jeb Stuart

    Fans of the History series “Vikings” rejoice! Netflix has ordered the follow up series titled “Vikings: Valhalla,” which will be set 100 years after the conclusion of the original show. The sixth and final season of “Vikings” on History is set to debut on Dec. 4. “Valhalla” will be executive produced by “Vikings” creator Michael [...]

  • Olympics

    NBCUniversal Sets Molly Solomon to Oversee Olympics Production, Replacing Jim Bell

    NBC’s Tokyo Olympics has a new contestant. Molly Solomon, a veteran sports producer who has been with NBC since 1990, has been tapped as the new executive producer of NBCUniversal’s Olympics broadcast, one of the most important production jobs at the Comcast-owned media conglomerate. She begins her new role immediately, with just months to go [...]

  • Juliette Lewis, Christina Ricci Join Showtime

    Juliette Lewis, Christina Ricci Join Showtime 'Yellowjackets' Pilot

    Showtime’s “Yellowjackets” pilot is rounding out its cast. The network has announced that “Camping” star Juliette Lewis and original “Addams Family” actor Christina Ricci have boarded the project as series regulars, joining already announced cast members Melanie Lynskey, Tawny Cypress and Jasmin Savoy Brown. “Yellowjackets” tells the story of a team of talented high school [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content