Friday, October 31, 2014 Heshvan 7, 5775

Economy of Scales: Entertainment Vendors Expand Services

March 13, 2014 By:
Gail Snyder, Simchas feature
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Sally Mitlas knows how to fill the dance floor.

Chances are the words “convenient, one-stop shopping” do not come to mind when you think about hiring vendors for your B’nai Mitzvah or wedding celebration. However, for a variety of reasons, it is easier than ever to have multiple services taken care of with one phone call or visit. This is especially true with entertainment companies that are increasingly offering a wider array of services beyond bands and DJs.

Interested in a custom-made short movie or music video featuring the Bar/Bat Mitzvah child or bride and groom? How about having your celebration recorded by videographers or photographers or offering your guests the chance to mug in a photo booth? Thinking about enhancing the mood of your party with décor elements such as uplighting and images projected on the walls or floors? Perhaps hiring some Mummers, celebrity look-alikes or even sword swallowers? Need favors? Want to have a single person in charge of making sure that your party runs smoothly? These “combo” services are among the options offered by such companies as Mitlas Productions, A# Sharp Productions and EBE Entertainment.

Call it a trend, if you will, among professionals who, by virtue of all the affairs they produce, are masters at spotting trends that families planning big life cycle events may want to know about.

Additionally, the one-stop shopping trend is being fueled by other trends — better-informed and educated consumers who know how to use the Internet to see what services are available to them and who have limited free time and a strong desire to get the best deals for their money. In this environment, it makes sense for entertainment companies with years of experience working with vendors to offer packages that piggyback on those associations, drawing people’s attention to other professionals they know are at the top of their game.

Of course, while entertainment companies do a lot, they don’t attempt to do everything. As Sally Mitlas of Mitlas Productions says, “We don’t do it all: no place cards, no centerpieces and no major décor. People come [to us] for the video and entertainment services and, for lack of a better word, for a planner for the flow of the celebrations.”

Some things that Mitlas Productions can do that may surprise you: projecting green screen images of the family on the wall, perhaps surfing or sailing or doing something else that fits the party’s theme; projecting animated photos of people in the room on the walls, supplying LED platforms for guests to dance on; providing video booths that let guests leave a message for the guests of honor; and upping the dance floor action with the optional presence of ballroom, salsa or hip-hop dancers. In addition, she can offer clients many examples of programs she has collected from the hundreds of wedding celebrations she has produced, all explaining Jewish customs in a variety of creative ways.

“We do anything entertainment-oriented that will create a vibe or feeling in the room and is appropriate and in good taste,” Mitlas says. “I’m a producer; we’re not a factory but a boutique that does one affair at a time. In 20 years in the business we have phenomenal contacts.”

Tara Buchanan has been working for EBE Events and Entertainment for eight years. She says the company began expanding beyond its original band and DJ business after observing that they could do a better job than some of the vendors they encountered at affairs they worked. Buchanan’s title is director of production, which hints at the kind of expanded role she can play for families that work with her. She observes that in the past five years, she has noticed that customers are more aware of all the elements they can use to enhance the ambiance at their affairs. “One big thing we are seeing,” she says, “is that people are learning the value of what production brings to a wedding.” For example, brides who are familiar with Pinterest and other DIY bridal websites understand that you can change the feel of a room by using uplighting (floor lighting), colored lighting, draping, and projecting custom patterns on the walls and floors. EBE can make it seem like the dance floor has moving water on it and, for B’nai Mitzvah, can make interactive games larger than life by letting kids move games pieces and other objects on the wall by simply waving their hands. 

EBE now has its own event space, the Warehouse at EBE, a state-of-the-art venue located on Delaware Avenue in Philadelphia, complete with a rooftop view of the Delaware River. Once home to a recording study called the Warehouse, the venue lets partygoers celebrate where Madonna, Bon Jovi, Dave Matthews and other recording artists once laid down their tracks. 

Adam Weitz, executive director of A# Sharp Production, says he has two types of clients: those who want him to handle the entire event and those that want to use him for specific services and hire other vendors to do the rest. With the latter, he’s only too happy to offer referrals when asked. In business for 20 years, Weitz’s company can provide décor, lighting, sound, entertainment, photography, media production and favors. 

“Some people think decoration is an absolute must,” he says. “Some people don’t care about decorations, but care about food and music. Other people want to walk into the most glamorous, outrageously decorated event where the music could be great but it is not the largest part of the package the client is getting. You want not to cut corners — you want to give them the most efficient and best thing out there” for their budget.

If a family wants to produce a movie or photo montage using their home computer, Weitz can rent them the speakers and other equipment they need to show it — or A# Sharp can create it for them. 

Weitz seems to get the biggest kick out of getting to know families and helping to incorporate who they are and their themes into the entertainment he provides. For one wedding in which the groom was a concert pianist, Weitz brought in a baby grand piano, darkened the room and had two ballroom dancers twirl as he played. “It was breathtaking,” Weitz recalls. For another wedding, his company made a short film reminiscent of the movie, When Harry Met Sally, that depicted the couple discussing how they met in an entertaining way. Weitz took one Bat Mitzvah girl who could sing well into a professional recording booth and shot a music video with her which was played at her party before she made her entrance. 

Weitz says, “For us, it’s about making each client exceptional — about doing things differently, each celebration on their own” — and doing it more conveniently than ever.

Gail Snyder is almost sorry she doesn’t have another Bat Mitzvah to plan. Almost. This article originally appeared in Simchas, a Jewish Exponent publication.

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