Hollywood awards season pumps up L.A. economy

The big winner in this year’s Hollywood awards season: the local economy.

Hundreds of millions of dollars are funneled into hotels, restaurants and limousine companies as Los Angeles hosts the Golden Globes, the Screen Actors Guild Awards, the Academy Awards and related events.

The money pumped into the Southern California economy comes at a welcome time. The awards season that stretches from January to March falls within a typically slow period for tourism around the country.

“We love the awards season business, and they come back year after year,” said Efrem Harkham, founder and chairman of Luxe Hotels, whose Southern California hotels have hosted several awards show events.


During awards season, Los Angeles County hotels report occupancy rates that are as much as 10 percentage points higher than other top U.S. destinations, including Miami, Chicago and New York, according to the hospitality research firm PKF Consulting. L.A. hotels also collect up to $16 more in revenue per room each night compared with other big cities during that period, the search firm reported.

No one has calculated the economic effect of all the awards shows. But economist Roy Weinstein estimates that the season brings “hundreds of millions of dollars” to the region.

“It’s lots of people, doing lots of stuff, including visiting Disneyland and Universal Studios,” said Weinstein, managing director of the research firm Micronomics. “We all benefit.”

For example, the Academy Awards show alone has an annual economic effect of $67 million, including $2 million in limousine rentals, at least $2 million in wardrobe spending for female attendees and $6 million for major Oscar parties, according to a Micronomics study released this month.

And then there is what Weinstein calls the “blimp effect.” That is what happens when East Coast viewers of the awards show see televised pictures of Southern California’s blue skies and palm trees shot from a blimp.

“When people see that back East, they say ‘Let’s plan a week or two in Los Angeles,’” he said.

The weekends during awards season are also busy for restaurants, particularly those that cater large parties.

The Patina Restaurant Group, the exclusive caterers for the Emmys and other Hollywood events, sees an uptick in business of 20% to 50% during awards season, said Melissa Darpino, senior director for catering and events at the restaurant group.


But restaurants also generate business by catering events that are not associated with the awards shows, such as fundraisers and fashion shows that take place during awards season to draw in visiting celebrities, she said. On Friday, for example, Pantina’s will cater a fashion show at the Versace store in Beverly Hills, Darpino said.

In other big cities across the country, the period from January through March is traditionally marked by low hotel occupancy and reduced daily rates. Hotels begin to see bookings and daily rates jump again in April thanks to travel for spring break.

But in Los Angeles, hotels and restaurants gear up for a blitz of visitors, starting with the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena and the Rose Bowl game on New Year’s Day. This year, the Rose Bowl also hosted the Bowl Championship Series game Jan. 6.

The awards season began this year with the People’s Choice Awards on Jan. 8 at the Nokia Theater at L.A. Live, followed by the Golden Globe Awards on Jan. 12 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel and the Screen Actors Guild Awards on Saturday at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. The season wraps up with the Academy Awards on March 2 at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.


During the Golden Globes, the Luxe Rodeo Drive hotel hosted a “gifting suite” party that plied celebrities such as Sharon Stone and Angela Basset with jewelry, lipstick, sunglasses and other items to expose them to the hotel and the new products.

“The city is full of a lot of people doing business,” said Marcus Mueller, the hotel’s general manager. “Even businesses that aren’t affiliated with entertainment are busy.”

The awards shows dividends trickle throughout the county.

The Intercontinental Hotel in Century City draws the occasional guest who is visiting L.A. but wants to stay away from the paparazzi and clamor at the Beverly Hills hotels that traditionally host awards shows, general manager Steve Choe said.


“The awards season definitely helps us,” he said.

But if an award winner stays at his hotel, Choe said, his staff sends up a bottle of champagne and a congratulatory note.