Thinking / Diana Allen
On Monday, June 25, the newly renovated Joy Theatre on Canal Street in New Orleans lit up their marquee for their first national red carpet premiere of the locally shot indie sensation, Beasts of the Southern Wild. After a major renovation, The Joy Theatre reopened its doors in December, 2011, and was the first downtown theater to reopen on a permanent basis after Hurricane Katrina.
“This is the right place to play it,” said director Benh Zeitlin, whose Louisiana-shot, Louisiana-set film has collected an armload of hardware on the film-festival circuit ( including top honors at Sundance and Cannes film festivals). “This is going to be the screening that actually makes me feel finished with the film, bringing it back here and showing it on the home turf.”
There was so much excitement in the city to have a red carpet premiere back on Canal Street. Tons of work goes into planning a press day and a full press line on the red carpet in support of a film’s opening. I’m a big believer in the fact that securing a full press day makes for a happy press day, but in changing media times, this task has become a difficult one. Like many cities across the United States, New Orleans media outlets are suffering from cutbacks, which means shrinking numbers of full-time entertainment reporters, and often the lack of manpower to supply journalists to cover entertainment events.
While securing a full day of press coverage is easily one of the hardest elements of the job, it can also be the most rewarding. Having so many press members in attendance that you can barely fit them along the red carpet is a really great problem to have.
Zeitlin and the rest of his producing team from Court 13 (Dan Janvey, Josh Penn, Michael Gottwald) walked the red carpet decked out in tuxedos, worked the press line and made time to stop and hug all of their friends and family.
Beasts of the Southern Wild’s first-time actors walked the red carpet in style. Eight-year-old Houma-area native, Quvenzhane´ Wallis (Hushpuppy), showed off her well-practiced red carpet poses in a powder-blue dress. Nearby, New Orleans baker, Dwight Henry (Wink), rocked a tuxedo with a crimson vest and matching pocket silk.
A minor constellation of local notables showed up to celebrate, too. Also in attendance were: Saints and Hornets-owner, Rita Benson LeBlanc; Mardi Gras Indian, Chief Alfred Doucette; and local actors Lance E. Nichols and Jaqueline Fleming.
The film’s co-writer, Lucy Alibar, who walked the carpet with her musician brother and “Beasts” animal wrangler, Nathan Harrison, said that as high-profile as the film’s previous screenings have been, none could compare to the New Orleans premiere.
Completing the day and watching the press rush off to wrap their stories in time to air on the nightly news, and seeing how much everyone enjoyed themselves was a great feeling. It makes all that hard work pay off. This wasn’t the first local red carpet premiere for New Orleans, but it was the first in quite a long time to come back to Canal Street. I’m confident it will not be the last, due to the emergence of Hollywood South!
Beasts of the Southern Wild opens in additional cities this Friday, July 27. To find out where the film is showing near you, visit the film’s official webpage.
Diana Allen is the New Orleans Account Supervisor at Moroch Entertainment. You can follow her on Twitter at @allaboutnola.
*Images courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures and Getty Images.