The Premiere of a Movie, the End of the Innocence

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This week I was invited to the New York premiere of Arbitrage, the “financial thriller” that could net Richard Gere his first Oscar nod. It also stars Susan Sarandon, one of my favorite actresses/human beings of all time. Unfortunately, due to a conflict I wasn’t able to attend Wednesday’s screening and, curiously, didn’t experience that FOMO feeling I usually get when I can’t take advantage of a cool invitation. As much as I love being among the first to see a new flick while glimpsing a celebrity or two, I’ve learned that attending premieres can actually be kind of a hassle. They always start late, the complimentary treats lined up on the concessions counter tend to be flat (the sodas) and stale (the popcorn), and the pursuit of a decent seat can get downright ugly. I’ll fork over $14 to catch Arbitrage this weekend with the other regular folk at a theater near me (and drop another 20 bucks on fresh snacks.)

Lest it sound like I’m complaining, let me confess that I’ve been lucky enough to attend a handful of movie premieres over the years and they really can be a thrill. The first one I experienced was Good Will Hunting in December 1997 at NYC’s Ziegfeld Theatre. Seeing stars Ben Affleck, Matt Damon and Minnie Driver walk the red carpet along with attendees Mariah Carey, Liv Tyler, Joaquin Phoenix, Vince Vaughn, Gwyneth Paltrow and Lars Ulrich was pretty cool. Plus, I absolutely loved the movie.

The Road to Perdition premiere in the summer of 2002, on the other hand, was not a pleasant experience. It was also at the Ziegfeld, but this time the theater was really hot and the woman in front of me kept fanning herself with her souvenir program. This would have been merely distracting were it not for the fact that she was wearing multiple bangle bracelets which jangled annoyingly with each flick of her wrist. I can barely remember the movie, but those damn bracelets still haunt me to this day.

This past spring I got to go to the Friends With Kids premiere, where cast members Jennifer Westfeldt, Jon Hamm, Megan Fox, Ed Burns, Adam Scott and Chris O’Dowd were joined by Sandra Bernhard, Russell Simmons, Sarah Silverman, Seth Meyers and ChristyTurlington. The randomness of those combinations — “Russell, have you met Sandra?” — is half the fun.

But 11 years ago this week there was one particular movie premiere that I will never ever forget.

My college roommate, Dan Coyle, had written a book called Hardball: A Season in the Projects, about his experiences coaching little league in Chicago’s Cabrini-Green housing project. The book was a critical and commercial success and Paramount snapped up the film rights and turned it into a vehicle for Keanu Reeves and Diane Lane titled simply, Hard Ball.

The Hard Ball premiere was held in LA the evening of Monday, September 10, 2001. The next morning, the world changed.

I had to be in LA for an entertainment marketing conference that was to start on 9/11/01, so I made sure to fly in the day before and score a pair of premiere tickets from the studio. I mean, my friend wrote a book that was turned into a movie… I was NOT going to miss out on that rare occasion! Dan and his wife Jenny (also a college classmate) flew down from their home in Alaska for the festivities. Although the movie was just okay — they strayed pretty far from Dan’s amazing source material — the mood was convivial and it was fun to hang with old chums.

We had celebratory cocktails afterwards, toasting Dan’s success. Our merriment and our hangovers were short lived, however, as we all received wake-up calls around 6 a.m. the next morning telling us that planes had crashed into the World Trade Center towers. The next week was spent watching CNN, desperately trying to get back to New York City, and wondering if we’d care about trivial things like movie premieres ever again.

TODAY’S POLL: Which 9/11 themed movie is your favorite?

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Fahrenheit 9/11

United 93

World Trade Center

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