With their passed appetizers, cocktail chatter, and gift bags, film premieres are essential to Hollywood — and in current circumstances, impossible. However, at least one premiere is moving forward in its own modified, social-distanced way: To celebrate the release of “Blow the Man Down” on Prime Video Friday, Amazon Studios has tapped a set of companies impacted by the crisis to bring the party to peoples’ homes — with everything but the schmooze included.
This evening, some 100 people in Los Angeles will receive a hand-delivered basket to enjoy on their couches in sweats. Put together by Annie Cambell Catering from local vendors, the Maine-themed dinner (to match the film’s setting) will include lobster rolls, heirloom carrots, and little gem salad for dinner, drinks from Helen’s Wines, truffles and blueberry cobbler from Valerie Confections, saltwater taffy from The Magic Nut & Candy Co., and even a linen set from Heather Taylor Home.
There’s a charitable component, too: Amazon is partnering with Italian restaurant Jon & Vinny’s to provide over 10,000 meals to the Los Angeles Mission.
The directorial debut of Bridget Savage Cole and Danielle Krudy, “Blow the Man Down” has received strong reviews and was a 2020 Independent Spirit Award nominee. Acquired by Amazon after its premiere at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival, the film’s release is technically unaffected by theater closings: The Amazon Original was an exclusive premiere on the streaming platform. However, Amazon intended to host a few catered word-of-mouth screenings as well as a premiere at the Metrograph in New York City.
The home-delivery solution is a clever way to safely bring attention to the title, but it also reflects the interconnection of the entertainment, events, and food businesses, and the need for creative solutions that can keep them afloat. Canceled events mean no catering; no catering means less business for farmers and butchers. That trickles down the food chain, no pun intended: US Census data estimates 3.7 million people in Los Angeles County work preparing or serving food.
“One hundred percent of our events are canceled,” said Campbell, who catered over 300 events last year. “This was an amazing opportunity for us not only to support ourselves and our team, but also some of the vendors that we are in the habit of doing business with on a weekly basis.”
Campbell’s company has pivoted to home-delivering seasonal meals, and she says many in her regular client roster of agents and entertainment attorneys have taken her up on it. Coupled with the Amazon job, Campbell said she’s optimistic about her company’s health: They’ve had to lay off one employee, but about 100 others, including bartenders and servers, are now earning paychecks delivering the orders.
“It’s a hustle,” she said. “After 10 years in business, this has been the most intense two weeks of being an entrepreneur.”
Valerie Gordon of Valerie Confections, which relies on events for income, agrees.
“‘You need 200 desserts, are you kidding me? Where? Of course we can do this,'” she recalled saying. “My first response was that we can absolutely do anything because I have a team that I’m really trying to keep on payroll.”
Gordon had to furlough some employees and reduce hours for those who stayed on, but said she feels lucky that her business is allowed to stay open and continue to ship online dessert orders nationwide. She transformed her Echo Park cafe into a marketplace that offers curbside pickup and delivery of prepared foods, baked goods, sweets, and pantry items — some culinary soothing during stressful times.
“I think food, and the sharing of food, even if it’s just done in a virtual way, is imperative to our joy,” she said.
Amazon’s effort may the first of its kind, but other LA businesses that rely on industry orders for some of their income are also getting creative. The Rustic Canyon Family of nine restaurants, which filled weekly standing orders from agencies and production companies, now offers curbside pickup and delivery at nearly all of their restaurants. They enhanced takeout offerings with family-size packages, pantry essentials, and cooking kits.
“We basically had to put together nine new business plans in less than 12 hours,” said Elise Freimuth, spokeswoman for the group.