US recession has sobering effect on Oscars

By AFP

June 18, 2010 Updated Feb 19, 2009 at 4:11 AM EDT

Fewer parties, fewer advertising dollars and less Botox: the dire state of the US economy has had a sobering effect on the glitzy world of the Oscars, experts say.

While the A-list are still guaranteed to light up the red carpet at Sunday's 81st Academy Awards, long-time observers of awards season say the recession has had led to noticeable cutbacks this year.

Event planners say studios are holding far fewer of the lavish, large-scale, celebrity-studded bashes dotted throughout Hollywood and Beverly Hills that have been the norm at previous Oscars.

Meanwhile, studios appear to have scaled back the blanket marketing campaigns on behalf of Oscar contenders, slashing advertising budgets by millions of dollars.

Chris Benarroch, an experienced Los Angeles-based events planner, said she first got a clue that the recession had begun impacting the fantasy land of Hollywood's awards season at last month's Golden Globes.

"At the Golden Globes there's usually around 10 parties," Benarroch told AFP. "This year there were three. Studios have cut back enormously.

"We've seen tremendous layoffs at the studios this year and I think that's been evident at the awards shows."

In past years, the hottest ticket in town on Oscar night has been Vanity Fair's party, where A-list credentials are obligatory. The event is returning this year after being cancelled in 2008 because of the writers strike.

However Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter has revealed this year's bash will be a smaller affair with a "considerably" trimmed-down guest list and recycled decorations from previous events.

"Usually on Oscar night you get in your limo and hop from one party to the next," Benarroch said, predicting that most Oscar-night events would be smaller and more exclusive.

"If you're a studio with a nominee you're going to have a dinner at a restaurant. Something that's very small and very exclusive. Not large scale parties for upwards of 500 people."

And it's not just money spent on celebrating the Oscars that has been cut: money spent on winning the coveted statuettes has also been reduced.

Awards season expert Tom O'Neil of the Los Angeles Times's theenvelope.com, said there had been demonstrable drop off in advertising, question and answer screenings with directors or actors and other promotional events.

"Events like that are way down," O'Neil told AFP. "The typical Oscar campaign for a best picture like 'No Country for Old Men' or 'Million Dollar Baby' was 15 million dollars. This year for 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button' it's 10 million."

Meanwhile, plastic surgeons in Los Angeles say that while business for non-surgical cosmetic procedures has picked up in the weeks leading to the Oscars, the spike is not nearly as high as usual.

"Procedures have always increased before the awards, the question in this economy is how much we can expect them to increase," said Beverly Hills plastic surgeon Anthony Griffin.

Griffin says although his business has increased by 25 percent, usually the jump is bigger. "The entire town seems to be cutting back on Oscar-related activities, including some beauty treatments," he said.

Santa Monica plastic surgeon Michael McGuire said he usually saw a rise in celebrities seeking Botox and fillers to smooth out wrinkles or plump skin.

Like Griffin, McGuire's business is up but not as much as normal.

"The numbers may be down slightly from previous years and some non-A-listers may be cutting corners as it relates to beauty," McGuire said. "But this is still Hollywood, where beauty reigns supreme."




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