Westwood Batmania : 8,000 Attracted by Lavish Premiere

Times Staff Writer

They did the Caped Crusader proud Monday.

In a scene reminiscent of the lavish Hollywood openings of a generation ago, two Westwood theaters were decorated in "Batman" motifs, and more than 8,000 people poured into the streets or scrambled onto roofs to watch celebrities arrive at the premiere of the Warner Bros. movie.

The entrance to the Bruin Theater was redone to look like the entrance to the Bat Cave, and the Mann Village Theater across the street was adorned with a 20-foot-tall cutout figure of Batman. The bat emblem even decorated the obligatory searchlights.

Arriving celebrities walked a red carpet through both theaters, allowing fans to catch glimpses, and none created more of a stir than co-star Kim Basinger, who arrived wearing the sheerest black mini dress.

'I'm Smokin"

The film's star, Michael Keaton, stepped from his limo and began giving high-fives to fans in the crowd. Asked how he felt, he answered: "I'm smokin'."

The Village and Bruin theaters screened the Gotham City epic simultaneously, and 1,000 members of the public--some of whom began lining up for tickets as early as Friday evening--were able enter free and sit inside with the stars.

Richard Baltin, 32, of Los Angeles had hoped that the lines would not start forming until Saturday or Sunday. But he went to the theaters after a party at his home at 3 a.m. Saturday after he had noticed people in line Friday evening.

"I gotta sleep some place," Baltin said he thought at the time. "I might as well sleep in line . . . I'm not so much a hard-core Batfan. I showed up because I think it's going to be a hell of a movie."

As songs from Prince's sound track for the movie blasted through the streets of Westwood, Baltin said, "It started as a slumber party, and now it's turned into a block party."

Like dozens of others in line, John Ryan, 22, of Northridge painted his face white and dyed his hair green, adopting the makeup of Batman's nemesis, the Joker, played by Jack Nicholson.

"It's a different Batman with a darker attitude," said Ryan, who had been in line since 7 p.m. Friday.

At first, passers-by had no idea what he and his friends were up to, Ryan said.

"Someone actually gave us money, thinking we were transients," he said. "When she found out that we were Batfans, she returned and demanded her money back. We gave it to her."

All of the Bat craziness was a boon to some area eateries.

Operators of Johnny Rockets hamburger stand next to the Village Theater were worried that they would run out of food.

"I hope we can make it through with what we've got," manager Heather Duke said.

Charles Forsher, who works at the Yogurt Place on Westwood Boulevard, said "Business couldn't be better. We sold two or three time as much as on a regular day."

Batmania, however, was not without its complaints. The seats for the public were randomly assigned, so some who had waited in line for days wound up with seats worse than those going to people who had only been in line only a few hours.

And shortly after 9 p.m., Nicholson--the Joker, the inspiration for so much sidewalk makeup--had not shown. "Where's Jack. Where's Jack," the crowd outside chanted

The turnout was so heavy, the studio scheduled a second showing late Monday, giving fans--and Nicholson--a second chance.

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