The Oscars are on Sunday, and Los Angeles will soon be awash in designer gowns, famous movie stars and high-price gift bags.
For the 20th consecutive year, LA-based marketing company Distinctive Assets is distributing its famously expensive "Everybody Wins" gift bags to select nominees. This year's bag is valued at just over $137,000 and includes items ranging from designer popcorn to a voucher for $12,000 worth of liposuction.
The gift bags have their "own reputation within the entertainment industry," says Distinctive Assets founder Lash Fary. They are a hit not only with the nominees, but with their representatives, agents and managers, he adds.
"We get calls from about 25% to 30% of the nominees each year who want to make sure we know where to get their bag to them," Fary tells CNBC Make It.
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In most cases, the nominees who are in Los Angeles for the Oscars simply receive the bags at their hotel. Others have them delivered to their LA-area homes or the offices of their production companies.
"I am mailing them to Olivia Colman and Judi Dench at their homes in the UK, and Penelope Cruz wanted hers shipped to Madrid," Fary says. "It's incredibly expensive, so I try not to ship them if I don't have to, but I will for the Penelope Cruzes of the world, that's for sure."
Who's getting this year's 'Everybody Wins' swag bag?
This year, a total of 28 people will receive the 'Everybody Wins' bag, Fary says. The five nominees for "Best Actress," "Best Actor," "Best Supporting Actress," "Best Supporting Actor" and "Best Director" will each receive the bag, as well as the three hosts of Sunday's telecast: Wanda Sykes, Amy Schumer and Regina Hall.
Because Distinctive Assets isn't affiliated with the Oscars, and instead independently gives out gift bags, Lash is able to decide who he wants to send the gift bags to. With other awards shows he partners with, such as the Grammys, he needed to create gift bags for all the nominees.
"It's a very small group of people compared to the 150 gift bags we create for the Grammys," Fary says. "That allows for products or services that would never be able to give away 150 items to be able to give away much more highly valued things."
High-profile recipients of this year's bags include "West Side Story" director Steven Spielberg, "Power of the Dog" star Benedict Cumberbatch and "Spencer" headliner Kristen Stewart.
What's in this year's bag?
The most expensive item in this year's bag is a $50,000 three-night stay at Turin Castle in Scotland, inspired by Denzel Washington's "Best Actor" nomination for "The Tragedy of Macbeth." Guests who accept the offer will have full access to the 17th century castle, complete with butler service and a bagpiper welcome when they arrive.
The bags also include 52 other items and experiences. Here are a few highlights:
- A $12,000 "Celebrity Arms" liposuction procedure from cosmetic surgeon Dr. Thomas Su
- The title of "Lord" or "Lady of Glencoe," along with a small plot of land in Scotland
- $25,000 worth of home renovations from Los Angeles-based Maison Construction
- An assortment of "flavor wrapped" popcorn packages from Opopop
- Up to $10,000 worth of "treatments and rejuvenation procedures" from Dr. Konstantin Vasyukevich
- A $15,000 four-night stay for two at the Golden Door luxury resort and spa in Escondico, Calif.
- A small batch tea gift set from Oprah-approved The Chai Box
- A $1,200 life coaching session with wellness expert Kayote Joseph
Is it really free?
Though recipients aren't technically paying for any of the gifts they accept, the value of the goods counts as taxable income, according to the IRS.
"If you think about it as 'what is the intent of providing those items, products or services?', obviously it's the hope that the celebrity is going to use that product, go on that vacation," Eric Bronnenkant, head of tax at Betterment, tells CNBC Make It. "They're trying to influence behavior."
Still, even with taxes, Fary says that Distinctive Assets' gift bags are a great deal for nominees.
"The reality is if you do get to go on a $50,000 trip, and all you have to do is pay a tax percentage of that value, you're still getting a pretty good deal," he says. "No one wants a deal more than rich people."
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