WHETHER YOU'RE looking to jazz up a jungle theme or re-create an entire movie set at your event venue, props and decor can transform a room and transport guests.
To event planners wondering if they can access items from the hottest recent films, prop veteran Harvey Schwartz answers: “Absolutely.”
The founder and president of North Hollywood, Calif.-based 20th Century Props describes the layout of his 113,000-square-foot facility as “halfway between Costco and Nordstrom,” and counts original set props from films “Minority Report,” “Moulin Rouge” and “Austin Powers” among 67,000 stocked items.
According to Schwartz, the emergence of privately owned prop houses means event professionals don't have to deal directly with big studios when they want big-screen props. As a result, he says, “People's dreams are coming true more and more.”
For planners, that means ample inventory and attentive service. He points to his recent launch of a full-service special event division headed by event expert Laird McClure.
For guests entering a prop-filled room, “people walk in and they smile, they're happy,” he says. “If you walk into a room decorated from ‘Moulin Rouge,’ you know it, it's immediate, and it's a turn-on. Everyone is so thrilled.”
Prop use at events has come a long way in a short time, says Ed Holland, vice president of Newbury Park, Calif.-based Fandango Special Events. “In the past, we just did light decor and cutouts,” he explains. “Now there's an increased demand for realism, for almost a theatrical production for events.”
As a result, he says, Fandango offers props that “set mood, provide escape, [and] evoke drama or glamour.” Currently in vogue, Holland notes, are jungle-themed props that bring to mind Tahiti, Hawaii, Brazil and Africa. “We're creating a larger tiki bar to accommodate several bartenders,” he adds. Also popular: “Our Broadway set — a silhouette of the New York skyline, with a fiber-optic curtain behind [featuring] signs of all the Broadway theaters with lights.”
Most importantly, he says, “Everything we do is installed and removed by us personally. It keeps quality up and repairs down.”
According to Pam Morrison of Las Vegas-based Hollywood Props Design Group, props with tropical, Asian, Western, sports and historical-era themes are popular, “but ceiling and wall decor — especially spandex — is very, very hot right now.” Why? “You can make it look any way you want to,” she says. “You can create more dramatic spaces.”
To help customers visualize her company's visionary decor concepts, “We'll set up the showroom as if setting up the event room,” she says. “Customers can come see it, or I will take digital photos to send to them.”
Decor expert Stephen Hamel of Covington, La.-based Fancy Faces agrees that spandex is still sizzling: “What's wonderful about spandex is that we can cover up things. We can paint with fabric — we don't have to get a spray can out.”
But, he adds, his most exciting new decor product definitely is his color-changing centerpiece. The unit comes in a variety of styles, which feature uplit Lucite rods, solid-color floral anchored in illuminated gels, and even custom-imprinted lighted glass cubes. “Lighting centerpieces is taking it to the next level,” he says. “We have to keep evolving so the customer doesn't get bored, and neither do we.”
Fancy Faces, 504/893-2652; Fandango Special Events, 800/798-2770, 805/499-9396; Hollywood Props Design Group, 702/732-7767; 20th Century Props, 818/759-1190