Amid all the economic turmoil of 2008, there is at least one place where hope springs eternal: in the minds of New Year's Eve party promoters.
In their planned scenarios, top-name musical talents will play into the early morning. Champagne will flow. And packed crowds will say goodbye to yesterday's troubles by tossing around hundreds of dollars like there's no tomorrow.
But how will reality play out?
So far, many New Year's Eve promoters have got the first two parts of the equation covered, with several events pulling out all the stops. At the Lot in West Hollywood, Travis Barker and DJ AM are reuniting for their first gig since their plane crash in September, with the concert streaming live at www.newyearsnation.com. At Hardball Productions' Gridlock New Year's Eve, behind Paramount Studios' storied Melrose Gate, chart-topper Katy Perry will sing, probably about kissing a girl (and liking it). At Giant Maximus at 8th and Figueroa streets in downtown L.A., Moby will headline for a crowd set to top out at about 9,000. And at the Sports Arena and environs, the Go Ventures/Insomniac team has lured top-flight Dutch DJ Armin van Buuren to play its annual rave-style event, Together as One, with a capacity for nearly 50,000 people.
Name talent on New Year's Eve comes at a price: a moderately well-known DJ can command fees between $2,500 and $5,000, and lining up an artist such as Moby for a DJ set can go for about $100,000, according to a booking agent familiar with such "gets," as they're known in music circles. For would-be partyers, that translates into ticket prices of about $60 to $150.
If you promote it, will they come?
So far, the planners say they are cautiously optimistic that Angelenos will want to get wild on Wednesday, even if revelers are putting value over extravagance.
"I think there is a great deal to celebrate this year -- a new era in the White House for starters -- that seems to be slightly overshadowed by the economy right now," says Giant owner Dave Dean, who adds that sales for his event have been relatively steady. "That said, a $75 New Year's Eve ticket is not like buying a house or a car. I think people will want to go out."
In fact, if the dizzying number of New Year's celebrations is any indication, few promoters have been willing to throw in the towel -- if anything, they're hoping the economic downturn will keep people from traveling elsewhere to party. In addition, many are scaling back prices.
"I sense that a lot of people will be hitting small house parties and staying close to home," says Bobby Green, co-owner of a number of small lounges around L.A., including Saints & Sinners in Culver City. "A few may go down to their local bars for a few drinks," he adds, noting that most of his establishments will have a cover charge of less than $20. His latest venture, the truck-stop-themed bar Stinkers in Silver Lake, is going cover-less for New Year's.
In Hollywood, however, many clubs are still charging between $50 to $150 for the privilege of ringing in 2009 behind a velvet rope, with a DJ-provided soundtrack and that ubiquitous "free" midnight champagne toast. And that's before parking, of course.
Yet even on the upper end of the cost spectrum, some are lowering prices, such as D.A.S.K. Productions' Steve Dimon, whose annual New Year's Eve Ball will take place at Social Hollywood.
"We've taken prices down to $125, which includes dinner and two free drinks," says Dimon, who notes that last year he charged $175 for his party in and around the Hollywood & Highland complex. "We feel like we're offering a great value, because we have a show attached to our event and we're serving a four-course meal -- a lot of clubs in Hollywood are charging the same just to get in the door."
Promoters such as Dimon know there is increased competition from smaller bars that are charging little or nothing to party on Wednesday night, but he remains hopeful.
"A lot of people who traditionally leave town for Las Vegas or other destinations are staying around," he said. "What I've noticed is that people are still going out. They want to be entertained."
Still, Dimon admits that this year may be a bit off in the profits department because bottle service, an expensive trapping of top-tier clubbers, is down all over town. "As opposed to buying four bottles, they'll just buy one," he lamented.
Yet the show must go on: Many promoters book venues months in advance, and some stand to lose considerable money if they don't get bodies through the door.
"We didn't anticipate the economy getting this bad," Dimon said of his early booking of Sunset Boulevard's 1,500-capacity Social. "I don't think anyone did."
Other promoters, however, say they are seeing a bit of a uptick and claim a light at the end of the tunnel for what has been a difficult fall.
"Two weeks ago I had very high revenues on my Friday night at Foxtail," says Michael Bellisario, who also hosts a regular Saturday night party at West Hollywood's Coco de Ville, the hot hang for "The Hills" set.
"Around the holidays in L.A., it does seem to clear out a little bit, because a lot of people go back East, but I still think New Year's Eve will be extremely busy."
Of course, Bellisario can afford to make such rosy predictions -- he's sitting out this year, opting instead to party with Diddy in Miami.