For businesses, landing in Oscar nominees' goodie bags has long been viewed as the marketing equivalent of winning the lottery. After all, the sales boon that can come from a single celebrity sighting with your product in tow can do much for a fledgling brand. For other businesses, however, the opportunity to fete Hollywood's royalty may well be more lucrative.
Intense preparation takes place to put on the awards ceremony, which is in its 91st year and will be held February 24 at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. The same goes for its accompanying after-party, the Governors Ball, which is expected to welcome some 1,600 guests. Businesses of all kinds are involved in the behind-the-scenes work, and planning will often start immediately after the previous year's event. Here are some of the indispensable companies behind this year's Academy Awards.
The Food: Wolfgang Puck Catering
World-famous chef Wolfgang Puck is no stranger to the movies. He has his very own Hollywood star, on the same block of Hollywood Boulevard as Nicole Kidman's and Harrison Ford's.
Puck used to host an Oscars party at his Sunset Boulevard restaurant, Spago, which led to the Academy, in 1995, inviting him to cater the Governors Ball, the official after-party. In 2012, Puck decided to transform the stuffier, sit-down dinner format into a mix-and-mingle affair with tapas-style sharing dishes, which this year will feature sunchoke and fennel soup, and Nashville fried quail with waffles, along with established favorites like the black truffle chicken pot pie. "If we took them off the menu, the guests would revolt," says Stephanie Davis, a spokeswoman for Wolfgang Puck Fine Dining Group.
Puck's fame preceded his engagement with the star-studded affair, to be sure. However, Davis adds, "the Oscars was a catapult." Not only did the gig provide the platform to launch his Los Angeles-based catering company, Wolfgang Puck Catering, but it also gave him the recognition needed to take it national. Today, the company, which declined to provide annual revenue, does events and drop-off catering in 50 cities nationwide, as well as for giant corporations. Davis notes that every workday the company serves up breakfast and lunch for 2,000 Netflix employees in its Los Gatos, California, office.
The Bubbly: Piper-Heidsieck
Piper-Heidsieck is one of the few remaining French champagne houses established in the 1700s. While it's now a part of EPI Group, a Parisian luxury brand holding company, its winery is still located in Reims. Since the early 20th century, the company has had a close relationship with cinema; the first champagne bottle shown in a movie was a Piper-Heidsieck, in Laurel and Hardy's Sons of the Desert. It has since partnered with prestigious awards ceremonies, including Sundance, Venice, and Cannes.
However, the Oscars is considered its most prized. "People see and understand that we are not just another champagne," says Piper's executive vice president, Benoit Collard, who declined to share revenue.
Piper delivers 1,500 bottles of champagne to the Governors Ball, filling around 10,000 flutes' worth of bubbly. This year, the limited-edition bottles will reflect Piper's fifth consecutive year of being the event's sole champagne provider. The bottles themselves will be dressed in red and gold, representing the red carpet and the iconic gold statuettes.
The Linens: Resource One
When Roberta Karsch started out in the world of fabrics, she was working out of her kitchen. She had to shove beautifully designed fabrics into her garage or closets for lack of space.
Now, her custom fabric rentals company, Resource One, which is based in L.A.'s Reseda neighborhood, provides linens for the Governors Ball and has built up a sturdy reputation--the Emmy Awards and the NFL Super Bowl Official Tailgate are other notable clients. Past events include private dinners for Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, and Oprah Winfrey's 50th birthday party. "We have a big name for a little company," says Karsch, who declined to provide revenue.
She detailed how much labor is involved, chiefly because Resource One is one of the few linen companies that still do everything by hand. When linens are returned, they're hand-inspected, and then put through hot steamers to remove wax and soil stains. They may then be hand-cleaned and certainly hand-pressed. That intensive care is the secret to the durability of the fabrics. "I have 20-year-old products that look almost brand new," Karsch says.
Karsch was first invited to design linens for the Oscars in 1994. Back then, the style was more refined and staid. Like Puck's dinners, the linens are now less formal but still elegant. This year, Karsch is evoking Old Hollywood by working with sleek satins, textured golds, and black velvet borders. "Textile in the room sets the tone," she says.
The Gold: Epner Technology
For 33 years, a Chicago company made the iconic Oscar statuettes out of tin casting and commercial gold plating, until 2015, when the Academy approached Polich Tallix, a fine art foundry in upstate New York, to take over. It wanted to return to the cast-bronze style that the Academy used to present to winners, "for reasons of tradition and quality," according to the foundry.
The production process is painstaking, comprising 3-D printing in wax, dipping in ceramic slurry, and bronze pouring.
That's when Epner Technology in Brooklyn, New York, takes over. After the molds are cast, Epner applies its "Laser Gold" plating--a proprietary process developed by the company.
Oscar recipients had been returning statues to the Academy for 30 years, says founder David Epner, because the gold kept wearing off. "They were the equivalent of bowling trophies," he adds. Dick Polich recommended his friend, Epner, as the man to return the gold plating to its reputable roots.
Epner uses plating that's three times harder than regular 24-carat gold. It's the same type that he uses in spacecraft plating to keep them cool. His company is working with NASA on the James Webb Telescope, expected to launch into space in 2021.
Despite Epner's revolutionary work for NASA, the military, and a range of interesting artists, he's always surprised how much people want to know about the Oscar gig. "It's the most advanced science in the world, and they're still turned on by the Oscars," he says.
Everything Else: Sequoia Productions
Cheryl Cecchetto's event production company, Sequoia Productions, is the glue that holds together all of the pieces of the Governors Ball. The staff oversees the rentals, flowers, food, lighting, sound, staging, decor, marketing, social media, and more. It takes around 800 people to put on the party, Cecchetto estimates. "It's mind-boggling what goes into events," she says.
L.A.'s Sequoia has been working with the Academy for about 30 years, but the level of production has increased drastically over time, Cecchetto says. "The Oscars is not a job where you can make a mistake," she says, adding that after the Oscars, which takes six months to organize, her staff will reduce their hours to a four-day week to regroup and reenergize.
Cecchetto declined to provide revenue details, but notes that servicing the event has done much for her brand. It's a tremendous professional opportunity to produce the after-party every year, Cecchetto says. It is a true showcase of what her team can do, and clients see that, she says, adding: When it comes down to it, "the only thing that's not in our control is the weather."