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A soiree for short subjects

Planning a movie premiere party is always a challenge, especially when you're trying to please a young audience.

May 11, 2003|Gina Piccalo | Times Staff Writer

Movie premieres happen so often in this town that if you've been to one, you've been to them all. After the red carpet and the film (a relatively minor aspect of the evening), there's the tented after-party -- a sort of happy hour for studio executives and their friends -- where everyone knocks back themed cocktails and nibbles seared ahi hors d'oeuvres.

Unless, of course, you're part of the echo-boom crowd, the target market for the kid films of summer. Kids get after-parties too, but theirs feel more like carnivals. Even when the honored film doesn't feature any such activity, there's usually a rock-climbing wall and a selection of virtual-reality video games. Sometimes even a Ferris wheel. The goody bags are stuffed with young-adult novels, movie-themed toys and more video games. Food and drink are secondary.

"The more activities you have, the more successful you're going to be," says Mary Micucci, whose events-planning company, Along Came Mary Productions, coordinates scores of film premieres each year. Though parents might be able to grab their kids and "give them some macaroni and cheese or some pizza ... they beeline right to the sugar," Micucci adds. At last Sunday's premiere of the Eddie Murphy film "Daddy Day Care," the story of two unemployed dads who go into the child-care business, scores of preschool-aged children (the film's stars among them) were overwhelmed by sugary treats: cookies-on-a-stick, cotton candy and mini cupcakes. In an effort to keep a crowd of 3-year-olds interested, Micucci created a block party on Westwood's Broxton Avenue with a Ferris wheel, a petting zoo, a giant slide and a "moon bounce." There were carnival games, video games and bracelet-making too.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday May 13, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 0 inches; 28 words Type of Material: Correction
Photo caption -- A photo caption accompanying the Social Climes report in Sunday's Calendar misspelled the first name in the film title "The Lizzie McGuire Movie" as Lizzy.

Last summer, the blockbusters "Spider-Man" and "Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones" inspired a few new distractions. A troupe of aerialists dressed in Spider-Man costumes passed time at the film's after-party crawling up ropes suspended from the top of the tent. For the premiere of the "Star Wars" prequel, actors in storm-trooper costumes milled among the guests, causing gasps of delight from the children.

At the April 26 premiere of Walt Disney Pictures' "The Lizzie McGuire Movie," it was a mostly female, mostly under-9 crowd. After taking in the film -- which tracks the adventures of McGuire (played by Hilary Duff) in Italy after her junior high school graduation -- the kids and their mainly middle-aged parents sipped orange drink and nibbled pizza inside a giant tent erected in the parking lot behind the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood. Then it was on to the activities: makeovers, jewelry-making, the "mini mani" (that's miniature manicure) and performances by teen pop bands Jump5, the Beu Sisters and Cooler Kids. One of the evening's highlights was a surprise appearance by teen idol and bubblegum rapper Aaron Carter. His presence was such an overwhelming experience for gaggles of swooning preteens that an announcer felt obliged to inform the crowd: "Yes, that really is Aaron Carter."

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