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Friday, 21 July, 2000, 16:54 GMT 17:54 UK
Hollywood in the heartland
London no longer hogs the premieres
Another week, another film premiere ... in the shadow of Spaghetti Junction, or on the north Wales coast. An altruistic bid to spread the glamour, or a shrewd business move? By BBC News Online's Megan Lane.

Summertime is blockbuster movie season, offering film fans a chance to catch a glimpse of their favourite stars in the flesh at glitzy opening nights.

Typically, the star-struck flock to London's Leicester Square, home to big cinemas linked to the big distributors.

Bright lights, big premiere
London: Gladiator, The Beach, X-Men...
Birmingham: The Perfect Storm
Sheffield: The Full Monty
Edinburgh: Return to Me, Entrapment, Nora, The Thomas Crown Affair
Stirling: Braveheart
Winchester: Sense and Sensibility, Mansfield Park, Emma, Human Traffic, The Road Home
North Wales: First Knight, August
Yet two of the biggest films out this season - nautical drama The Perfect Storm and Jim Carrey's latest offering, Me, Myself and Irene - open outside the capital, in Birmingham and Rhyl respectively.

No prizes for guessing that there's an ulterior motive.

On Thursday, Hollywood heartthrob George Clooney and co-star Mark Wahlberg crossed the Atlantic for The Perfect Storm's UK premiere.

The screening marked the opening of the 5,800-seat Star City megaplex, the latest addition to the Warner Brothers' empire. Surprise, surprise, Warner Brothers are the film's distributors.

The presence of the man widely hailed as the world's sexiest hunk guaranteed maximum exposure for both the film and the complex.

Carrey and Kournikova

Come September, Rhyl in north Wales will host the first British screening of Me, Myself and Irene.

Hugh Laurie and Joely Richardson in London
The capital typically hogs glitzy film premieres
The seaside town secured the premiere thanks to Steve Higginson, a vice-president of 20th Century Fox, who played for Rhyl Town Football Club in the 1970s.

But fans of the film's star - and followers of high-profile extra Anna Kournikova - look set to be disappointed. No "talent" will be in town for the screening, says a Fox spokeswoman.

"It's a regional premiere, to benefit a local charity. If the talent becomes available, we'll look at doing a London premiere."

The decision to screen a premiere outside London often comes down to the project having strong links to an area.

Braveheart premiered in Stirling, where Mel Gibson's Sir William Wallace triumphed over the English; and The Full Monty - unemployed steelworkers stripping for cash and empowerment - opened in Sheffield.

Full Monty
The Full Monty: Shot in Sheffield
Winchester, a one-cinema city in Hampshire, may seem an unlikely choice for a film premiere.

Yet the cinema, part of Mainline Pictures' Screen chain, is the venue of choice for film adaptations of Jane Austen's works. The city was once home to the novelist, who was buried at Winchester Cathedral.

"We're not far from London, it's a lovely cinema in a converted church, and the family who run it are very well-connected in the film distribution world," says a Winchester City Council tourism spokeswoman.

In 1996, Porthmadog in north Wales hosted the European opening of First Knight, starring Sir Sean Connery and Richard Gere, and filmed near Snowdonia.

Hugh Jones, the local film commissioner, persuaded Colombia Tri-Star to go outside London.

"I sold them the idea that it would be a bit quirky to hold it in north Wales."

At first, no one expected the film's stars to attend the event: "But Julia Ormond turned up and we had a lovely night."

The same year, Anthony Hopkins chose Theatre Clwyd in Mold to premiere August, his first outing as a director. The celluloid project grew from his stage production at the same venue.

Rival to London

As well as reinforcing in which country to find the featured location, hosting a premiere has spin-off benefits for the venue, says Matt Lloyd of the Edinburgh International Film Festival.

Edinburgh premiere of Return to Me
Scottish links: David Duchovny is from Aberdeenshire stock
"The Cameo [in Edinburgh], a small independent cinema, exists on having a reputation boosted by these events."

The cinema hosted the UK premiere of the Blair Witch Project at last year's festival - tickets to the midnight screening sold out in minutes.

"This year, we have less big films and more independent films," Mr Lloyd says, adding that possible stars attending this year's event include Renée Zellweger, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Eric Stoltz.

Mark Rogers, assistant manager at Edinburgh's Odeon multiplex, said the Scottish capital would soon give London a run for its money.

"The distributors are starting to recognise the facilities we can offer, and they are now realising it's not just Leicester Square that can host these premieres."

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George Clooney at the Birmingham premiere of his new filmPerfect George
Heart-throb Clooney attends UK premiere
See also:

20 Jul 00 | Entertainment
Clooney hits Birmingham
25 May 00 | Scotland
Duchovny's Highland fling
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