Remembering the times when George Clooney was sent to Birmingham, and Val Kilmer was shuttled up to Leicester for UK movie premieres.

Back in ye days of olde when movie premieres were a thing in the UK, it seemed that there was a firmly established ruleset in place. That premieres now are the domain of Leicester Square in London, to the point where the refurbished Odeon there boasts that it’s the home of the film premiere on its fascia.

However, it was not always so. And in particular, in the 1990s and early 2000s, there were instances of movie stars being introduced to the frailties of the British motorway system. Or – yikes – those trains where it smells like the bog hasn’t been cleaned since the industrial revolution.

Thus, not only did premieres take place in other London venues, but occasionally, they’d venture to places like Manchester or the Midlands. Here, then, is a smattering of cases of where the big movie premiere in the UK wasn’t exclusively a Leicester Square thing…

HITCH

Will Smith wasn’t doing things by halves when he hit the UK to promote his 2005 romantic comedy, Hitch. Clearly with a bit of a fetish for the British motorway system, on Wednesday 23rd February of that year he packed three premieres in one day into his schedule.

He went to the Printworks in Manchester first, then the UGC on Broad Street in Birmingham (now a Cineworld) before finishing up at the more traditional Leicester Square. Local celebrities from Manchester and Birmingham attended their respective premieres, meaning Will Smith got to enjoy the company of some Corrie stars, and a smattering of footballers from Birmingham City and Aston Villa.

Here’s Will in action in Manchester…

 

BATMAN FOREVER

When Warner Bros was opening up cinemas under its own name around the UK in the 1990s, it timed the openings of big movies to the doors being thrown open of these new venues. As such, it dragged its star talent to places that don’t usually end up on a press tour.

As Reuters described with a penchant for understatement then, when it came time for Warners to open 1995’s Batman Forever, “Unusually, the premiere was held outside London in the Midlands industrial town of Leicester”.

On July 12th 1995 then, director Joel Schumacher and then-Batman Val Kilmer were introduced to the M1. Here’s some stock footage that we can’t afford to embed, that shows people coming out the screening and pretending to like the film.

 

THE LORAX

With the Olympic Games about to start, Universal Pictures opted to host the UK premiere for animated hit The Lorax in Birmingham, at the Cineworld on Broad Street. And: I ended up working the press pen for this one.

We were given a sheet so we could identify the star names as they walked past. Helpfully, their pictures were attached too in case their fame escaped us. I believe that Emile Heskey was the third most famous person on the list, failing to topple Danny DeVito from the top. Wonderfully, members of the US and Jamaican Olympic team were in attendance, just a couple of weeks before they stormed the games and thus they were able to slip in anonymously.

On the upside, the event was sponsored by the local garden centre (genuinely), and I got a smashing Christmas tree off them that year.

Danny DeVito, meanwhile, spent a lot of time chatting to the crowd, whilst someone sweated it out in a Lorax outfit. It was a hot day too.

 

ERASER

Still in and around London but not with the glamorous backdrop of Leicester Square, Warner Bros decided that Arnold Schwarzenegger needed to catch the sights of Finchley Leisure Park in the city for the UK opening of his 1996 action film Eraser.

Yep, it was another Warner Bros cinema opening, this one attended by the likes of Paul McKenna, Anna Friel, Melissa George and Mick Hucknall, who is part of the popular pop band Simply Red.

The film proved to be a decent hit in the UK, boosted by all the star wattage on offer.

END OF DAYS

Arnie again, and as we chatted about here, there was a race and a half to complete the film End Of Days so that it could lend at the end of 1999 – all to tie into its end of the millennium theme.

Naturally, when it came to promote the film in the UK, that meant the need for a bit of lateral thinking, and as such, Schwarzenegger and co were scooted over to a Greenwich cinema for its UK bow. And in fairness, Arnie could pull a crowd, and thus famous people in posh clothes were not far behind him…

 

THE PERFECT STORM

The Star City complex in Birmingham was a huge development launched in a flurry of publicity back in 2000. And at the heart of it was a 30-screen Warner Bros cinema, where nearly a third of the screens were mothballed within a year of release, such was the overestimating of demand for it.

That notwithstanding, Warner Bros kept up its policy of dragging stars away from London for the opening of one of its cinemas. As such, George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg found themselves going up a cranky Brummie escalator, as crowds looked on. The cinema was then officially opened by Clooney, and then-leader of Birmingham City Council, Theresa Stewart. What’s more, wonderfully, the Associated Press released footage of this, as part of a video that also brings together Los Angeles-based interviews for the movie.

Take a mooch: the Midlands bit kicks in around one minute 40….

Warner Bros sold the cinema chain not long thereafter. It’s now a Vue…

 

ALAN PARTRIDGE: ALPHA PAPA

Perhaps fittingly, the only big screen adventure to take of Norfolk’s most famous DJ took place in and around the Norwich area. When it came to the world premiere of the world, there was thus only one logical place to stage it. As such, in July 2013, Steve Coogan walked the red carpet in Norwich, before hot-footing it to London for a more traditional Leicester Square premiere for the film later that day. Still, here’s Alan in fine form outside the Hollywood Cinema in Norwich…

 

One more thing…

I have vague memories – I was living in the area at the time – of Mike Myers coming up to Liverpool for a premiere of Wayne’s World 2 in 1994. But I can’t find any record of that. Can anyone help me out in the comments? And feel free to add any more regional premieres from around the UK that you can remember too…

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