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Who's getting in on L.A.'s multimillion-dollar Oscar economy? Hollywood salons and florists, for starters

Michele Latch is steeling herself for Hollywood's biggest night.

The West Hollywood makeup studio she manages, Blushington, has bookings for about 200 women — and a few men — who'll be getting glammed up on Sunday ahead of the Academy Awards.

That's more than triple the number of customers on a typical Sunday and an increase of 22% from last year. The store is opening an hour early — at 9 a.m. — and expects the onslaught to last through the day.

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"It's exhausting," said Latch, standing next to a tidy workstation arrayed with makeup that'll be applied to clients' faces as part of treatments such as the $65 "red carpet ready" service. "But this is what we look forward to — this is like our Super Bowl."

The Academy Awards are important not only for the stars and studios but also for the legions of small businesses like Blushington that are key cogs in Los Angeles' multimillion-dollar Oscar economy. Salons, florists, chauffeur services, caterers and celebrity home tour companies all say they see a spike in sales during Hollywood's two-month-long mutual appreciation marathon that culminates in the Oscars. For some vendors, awards season can make or break their year.

"There is a significant opportunity for these different service firms that exists around this time of year," said Kevin Klowden, executive director of the California Center at the Milken Institute, a Santa Monica-based economic think tank. "It should impact thousands of businesses directly or indirectly over the course of awards season."

Setting aside revenue generated by the telecast of awards shows, Klowden said that the season is likely to generate local economic activity in the range of tens of millions of dollars. Hollywood movie studios, for example, can spend several million dollars on promoting their Oscar contenders by, among other things, hosting lavish parties that are the bread and butter for many in the service industry.

"You are dealing with millions of dollars of wages that are created during this period," Klowden said.

Businesspeople can attest to that.

Florist Mark Held, owner of Mark's Garden in Sherman Oaks, is handling the floral arrangements for the Governors Ball and said that the awards season provides "a bump" of extra business. For Held, it's the culmination of several weeks of Oscars-related business, including roughly 10 smaller parties for which Mark's Garden provided the flowers over the last week.

"We are busy with it," said Held, whose company has handled the Governors Ball flowers for more than 20 years. "A luncheon here, a dinner there — when people celebrate in Hollywood they will very often include flowers."

On a recent afternoon, Frankie Fronk, manager of Prime Time Hollywood Tours, watched as an employee hawked two-hour sightseeing expeditions to tourists strolling along Hollywood Boulevard. Frond said that the Academy Awards helps during what is typically a slow season.

"On Oscars day, it is nonstop until about 3 p.m., when people go to the fence [surrounding the red carpet] to try to see the stars," said Fronk, adding that the day ranks among the busiest of the year alongside the New Year's holiday. "It is something we look forward to."

He isn't alone. Jeff Rezvani, owner of Los Angeles Limousine Service Co., said February is otherwise a "very slow month."

"It is wintertime, and people stay at home all over the country because of the cold and snow," said Rezvani. "But these events are a spike in the business."

Alec Levenson, an economist with the Center for Effective Organizations at the USC Marshall School of Business, said it is a "happy economic coincidence" that the awards season occurs during a slow period for the local tourism industry.

"It is timed perfectly, because it is timed to when people aren't traveling," he said.

The Blushington makeup studio on Sunset Boulevard does brisk business not only on Oscar Sunday, but throughout the entertainment industry's awards season. It is next door to hair styling salon Drybar (think: blowouts), another hot spot for the Hollywood crowd.

The two beauty shops are swarmed on the day of the Academy Awards by publicists, journalists, assistants and others whose jobs involve the awards show put on at the Dolby Theatre a few miles away.

"In Hollywood, nominees have the glam squads, and everyone who works around them has Drybar and Blushington," said Andrea Mandell, West Coast entertainment editor of USA Today, who has appointments at both venues on Sunday. "It's just jammed. You see pretty much every publicist and journalist friend barefaced, getting their makeup done, holding a cup of coffee and madly emailing."

Natasha Cornstein, president of the L.A.-based Blushington chain, said that on a typical Sunday, a store will see 25 to 30 clients who on average spend $75 each. (Blushington's standard "full face" makeup application costs $45; there are also add-ons, including $20 faux eyelashes.)

But on Sunday, the influx of customers at the West Hollywood shop could generate an estimated $10,000 or more in additional revenue. "[It's] the biggest day of the year — it is only rivaled by New Year's," Cornstein said.

The West Hollywood store, one of three Blushington locations in Southern California, prepares for the onslaught by adding "pop-up stations" that can accommodate the additional customers, she said, adding: "It's all hands on deck in West Hollywood."

All of Drybar's 10 salon chairs were filled with clients on Monday morning, the women ranging from sharply dressed executives to twentysomethings in designer sweatpants. They stared at the screens of their mobile phones or leafed through magazines while their stylists hovered over them, the roar of the Buttercup Blow Dryers nearly unending. (The dryer, which is bright yellow and looks like a ray gun from an old sci-fi film, can be purchased at the store for $195.)

The stylists' stations — which are oriented a U-shaped bar clad in gray marble — feature an array of Drybar-branded hair products that have cheeky, cocktail-themed names such as "sake bomb," "Texas tea" and "the chaser."

Alli Webb, who co-founded Drybar with her brother and husband in 2010, said that clients book their Oscar Sunday visits at the West Hollywood store as much as six weeks in advance. The shop typically sees 100 to 150 customers a day but is prepared for nearly 200 customers on Sunday, she said, stocking up on the essentials and staffing extra workers.

"The stylists know what to expect," said Webb, whose Irvine-based company has 55 stores nationwide. "We have a lot of up-dos — we are prepared for that. So things like having extra bobby pins [is necessary]. … It's a really big day for us in L.A."

(At L.A.-area stores, an up-do will set you back $80, but a standard blowout costs $40.)

In an only-in-Hollywood twist, the Drybar story is being developed into a feature film at movie studio Universal Pictures, which last year acquired the life rights of Webb and her brother, Michael Landau.

Even if the stakes will be high on Sunday, Blushington and Drybar work to put their stressed-out customers at ease. At both establishments, upbeat pop wafts from unseen speakers, the walls are painted in muted colors, customers are plied with champagne, and affirmative declarations are plastered on the walls (at Blushington, mirrors are emblazoned with pink signs reading "#FINDYOURPRETTYEVERYDAY").

Touches such as these help to calm pre-awards show jitters, generating "good energy," said publicist Heidi Schaeffer, who over the years has visited both shops in the Sunset Plaza shopping center on the day of the Golden Globe Awards and Emmy Awards.

"I'm always a little anxious on those days, but the place is buzzing, said Schaeffer, a vice president in the talent department of PMK-BNC. "Usually everybody in the place is going to the awards — I always see somebody I know."


'The Oscars'

Where: ABC

When: 5:30 p.m. Sunday

Rating: TV-14-DLV (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 14 with advisories for suggestive dialogue, coarse language and violence)

Twitter: @DanielNMiller


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Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
A version of this article appeared in print on February 27, 2016, in the Entertainment section of the Los Angeles Times with the headline "Nonstop buzz - It's look-good time. Business is booming. - COUNTDOWN TO THE OSCARS" — Today's paperToday's paper | Subscribe