When Summit Entertainment asked Chad Hudson to produce the premiere for summer blockbuster “Twilight: Eclipse,” he realized the ministudio wanted a big-money extravaganza for a low-budget price.
So Hudson, president of Chad Hudson Events in Beverly Hills, came up with a solution: Plan several events at the same venue within a brief time frame. That way, they could share the cost of the “Eclipse” party with the other events.
Hudson found out that two other events were being staged about the time of “Eclipse”: the Los Angeles Film Festival Opening Gala on June 17 and Universal Pictures’ “Despicable Me” premiere party on June 27. “Eclipse” was right in the middle on June 24. The two other event planners agreed to use the same vendors for carpets, decoration, lighting, audiovisual equipment and catering.
Although cooperation made economic sense, it ran counter to Hollywood’s taboo against helping a competitor. However, Hudson and the other event planners agreed that because “Eclipse” appeals to teens, “Despicable” was for younger children and the film festival was for the art house crowd, their clients weren’t really competing.
“In 10 years of producing premieres, it’s the first time I’ve heard of studios helping each other by sharing vendors,” he said. “It allowed both studios and the festival to have larger events than they could have done alone.”
For Hudson, the final results proved the benefits of cooperation among competitors. He estimated that Summit cut the costs for the “Eclipse” premiere by 30 percent, with similar savings for the other parties involved. Since the typical studio premiere has a budget between $150,000 and $300,000, the savings could’ve neared six figures.
All the events took place at the Nokia Theater in the L.A. Live complex in downtown Los Angeles. The opening-night gala for the film festival was the smallest and simplest of the three events, with standard Hollywood glamour décor and a guest list of 1,000 people. Then came the “Eclipse” premiere, which required transforming the interior of a giant tent to look like moonlit forest. Workers brought in trees and constructed a faux snow-covered field and a giant model of a partially eclipsed moon. The party had nearly 3,000 guests.
Hudson hired design firm Angel City Productions to construct platforms that would work for both “Eclipse” and the “Despicable Me” event three days later, which also had about 3,000 guests. For the kid’s picture, the décor was switched from “Twilight” colors to neon yellow, and featured children’s games and a play wind tunnel.
Summit, Universal and the film festival shared the rental costs for lighting, carpets, drapery, tents, tables, chairs, security barricades and catering equipment. The two movie studios split the costs of set construction, projection and sound equipment.
Each client – the studios and festival – paid its share of the costs directly to the Nokia, Angel City and other subcontractors. But the shared costs resulted in savings.
“Money changed hands as it normally would, but there was less of it going out,” Hudson said.
The savings also included labor costs. Even though the event planners had to pay union wages and overtime for the Nokia’s stage crews, the bill was lower because the stages and lighting only had to be set up and taken down once – instead of three times.
“Nokia is a union house so I knew what we were up against,” said Hudson, who worked on the project with Paul Boisvert, his director of operations, and Mark Cornelsen, event manager. “It’s up to us to keep those labor costs down. In the end, what we incurred in overtime hours was more than saved by avoiding additional trucks and crews.”
Evelyn Taylor Carrion, vice president of sales at Nokia, negotiated the three-way space rental agreement for the combined events with Hudson and the other event planners – Hollace Davids, vice president of special projects at Universal Pictures, and Shawn Davis, Los Angeles Film Festival events producer. She sees cost-sharing as a strategy that satisfies customers.
“Budgets for movie premieres aren’t what they were five years ago,” said Taylor Carrion. “But the movies coming out are still fantastic. They deserve a big event, but how do you do that with a 2010 budget? By sharing those costs.”
For the future, she is looking at the calendar to try and package movie premieres at the Nokia in order to duplicate the success of the triple play.
Alice Dubin, Los Angeles bureau chief for event website BizBash, which covers the corporate event industry, said the big challenge when event planners share costs is that the events can look and feel the same.
“Every host wants his own event to appear new and different,” Dubin said. “But events with different guest lists shouldn’t care if the flowers look the same.”
Dubin added that cost-sharing has picked up in the current economy, with planners in New York, for example, using the same venue and décor for a business lunch and a dinner on the same day. But the combination of two premieres and a gala festival opening, all of which she covered for BizBash, stands out.
“It was an impressive logistical and budget-shaving feat,” she said.
Currently, 65 percent of Hudson’s business is movie premieres, followed by parties, charity dinners and other entertainment events. Major clients include Summit, Warner Bros. and BBC Worldwide America.
But Hudson’s strategic plan for his company is to expand beyond entertainment into fashion and corporate events while maintaining the same number of employees. To accomplish that, he hopes to apply the client-cooperation method to other industries.
There’s no reason that Chivas Regal, the company’s main corporate client, couldn’t stage a tasting party and then turn the venue over to a show business client, thus reducing costs for both.
Meanwhile, he is looking to repeat the experiment with other film premieres, especially during the holiday season when studios line up to launch their movies. While it may be rare that three events line up as well as they did in June, he believes that planning two events in conjunction could save 20 percent of the costs for each client.
Hudson believes entrepreneurs in other industries should consider cooperation and other unconventional strategies to improve their business.
“I was never taught to do this, but it just made sense,” he said. “Doing things differently in this day and age is worth the risk because you can have a great payoff – we certainly did.”
Chad Hudson Events
HEADQUARTERS: Beverly Hills
CORE BUSINESS: Production of movie premieres and other entertainment events.
EMPLOYEES: Eight, up from two in 2008.
GOAL: To expand beyond entertainment into fashion and corporate events.
THE NUMBERS: Company produces 10 to 12 premieres per year; Hudson has produced more than 200 in his career.
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