Times Film Writer

'A Private Function," a new British film starring Maggie Smith, Denholm Elliott and Michael Palin, will be the opening-night attraction for the Los Angeles International Film Exposition on March 14.

Filmex directors Suzanne McCormick and Ken Wlaschin had earlier promised a major studio feature as the centerpiece of Filmex's annual fund-raising premiere, but apparently those plans fell through. "A Private Function" is being touted as the official inauguration here of the British Film Year, an effort by the British film industry to showcase its renewal.

The premiere will be held at Mann's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, beginning at 7:30 p.m. In keeping with the evening's British theme, the section of Hollywood Boulevard in front of the theater will be decorated as an old English street, with musicians, minstrels and magicians.

The annual Filmex Society Benefit Ball will take place at the Palace on Vine Street in Hollywood after the screening. An international buffet will be featured, along with entertainment from members of various Broadway musical companies, including Donna McKechnie, Pam Myers, Lauree Berger and Laurence Guittard.

"A Private Function," a comedy directed by Malcolm Mowbray, is set in England in 1947 and concerns an ambitious chiropodist's wife trying to pull herself up the local social ladder. It was produced by Handmade Films, the film company co-owned by former Beatle George Harrison, which has produced "Time Bandits," among other movies.

Island Alive, the independent company that distributed "Choose Me" last year, will release "A Private Function" in Los Angeles on April 5. It will debut first in New York on March 1.

Tickets for the Filmex benefit will be $250 each, and unlike earlier festival opening nights, no separate tickets will be available for the screening. Information: 856-7707.

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