Walk of Fame Hits Up Movie Studios for $4 Million Face-Lift
With chips and cracks tarnishing Hollywood's stars, an effort to clean up the mess asks reluctant studios to pony up beyond the already steep fees.
This story first appeared in the Dec. 7 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
The cash-strapped, aging Hollywood Walk of Fame is turning to the industry to help pay for its $4 million makeover. Studios and record companies already support the iconic tourist attraction in the form of $30,000-a-star "sponsorship" fees (up from $25,000 three years ago), which they dole out for talent receiving the honor. As a relatively small expense pegged to a big marketing campaign, it's justified because the unveiling inevitably results in worldwide media exposure.
The most recent star went to Javier Bardem, whose sponsor was Sony Pictures, on Nov. 8, the day before Skyfall was released. So far this year, sponsors have ranged from Paramount (Sumner Redstone) to Relativity (John Cusack). Warner Bros. has been 2012's most frequent patron, supporting John Wells, Malcolm McDowell, Patricia Heaton and Ellen DeGeneres.
But will the studios be willing to spend more to help beautify the 64-year-old Walk? Repairs began after Labor Day where the stars have been the most damaged: the highly foot-trafficked entrance of the Metro subway stop on Hollywood Boulevard at Highland Avenue. Cracks are being fixed, brass outlining replaced and mangled terrazzo reinforced with thicker substrate foundation.
"Once we're done there, and we've demonstrated the efficacy of our new methods, we're going to go out to the entertainment community to help us finish the job," says Jeff Briggs, a trustee at the nonprofit Hollywood Historic Trust, which helps maintain the 15-block Walk in conjunction with the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce.
So far, the trust has raised $2.5 million, most of it from a few major contributors, including the Metropolitan Transit Authority ($1.5 million) and the chamber ($500,000). Half of studio sponsorship money goes toward unveiling-day costs, the rest toward lifetime maintenance -- which is why some view the trust's hat-in-hand plan as double-dipping. Gripes a skeptic at one major studio, "I don't see us in a hurry to pony up."