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Taking a Gamble on 'The Game'


The Scene: In a sense, a dual premiere--for the filmmaker and the film. At Monday's launch of PolyGram Films' first release, "The Game," at the Chinese Theater, a number of guests noted the irony between the title and the risky business one of the world's largest record companies is plunging into. One guest compared the night to a high-stakes debutante ball.

The Party: In his prescreening remarks, PolyGram's movie czar Michael Kuhn invited guests to the post-movie fiesta with the words, "I hope you enjoy it. I'm never paying for a party this expensive again." He did reach deep into the wallet. Guests walked to the nearby Hollywood Colonnade, which was transformed by Merv Griffin Productions into an elaborate San Francisco "mansion." They entered beneath a 35-foot Harlequin statue into a warren of ornately furnished living, dining, billiards and cigar rooms. In the banquette-lined ballroom, the 10-piece retro-swing band Big Bad Voodoo Daddies held court. It had the mildly chaotic ambience of every 16-year-old's prom night fantasy--got the house, got the money, got the biggest party in town.

Who Was There: The film's star, Michael Douglas, co-star Sean Penn, director David Fincher; plus 1,800 guests including Michael Keaton, Tia Carrere, Bill Maher, Anthony Edwards, Julie Delpy, Judith Light, Karl Malden, Rhea Perlman, Mark Johnson, John Burnham, Joel Silver, Nick Reed, Renny Harlin, Paramount's Jonathan Dolgen, Warner's Lorenzo di Bonaventura, MCA's Ron Meyer and PolyGram studio execs Andy Fogelson, Peter Graves and Bruce Feldman.

The Buzz: That word-of-mouth could be the difference between the movie doing good business and having a major breakout hit. Francis Ford Coppola's words on the film were "suspenseful, exciting and well-done."

Quoted: "I thought the film was a modern-day Scrooge fable. There's arrogance, humility, finding your soul--all that stuff," said Douglas. "As an actor, what you find out is, it's extremely exhausting playing a victim."

Anxieties: The studio has been concerned that reviewers will reveal the film's surprise ending. "What's the worst thing you can threaten a critic with?" asked one exec. "We could lock them in a room and make them watch 10 years of Siskel and Ebert."

Sign of the Times: The unventilated room where cigars were handed out. Obviously medical science has achieved an amazing breakthrough--secondhand smoke is safe if it's accompanied by enough champagne.

Last Word: Director Fincher said he found the whole premiere experience extremely stressful. "It's like they take the baby out, they cut the cord and they say, 'Well, let's see if it can dance.' "

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