The star of “King Kong” is very large. The premiere of Peter Jackson’s new film was even larger.
Universal Pictures filled no fewer than 38 Times Square movie theaters Monday night as it unveiled “King Kong” for nearly 8,000 people. Jackson introduced his $220-million film -- Screen 13 at the Loews E-Walk was the A-list auditorium -- while clutching the metal frame used to create Kong in the original 1933 film.
“This is my security blanket,” Jackson said, holding tightly to the 1-foot-tall model. “I wanted to make ‘Kong’ ever since I was 9 years old.”
Even though Jackson didn’t film a day in Manhattan -- he made the movie in his native New Zealand -- New York, of course, plays a prominent role in the three-hour film. The city even allowed Jackson to climb to the 103rd floor of the Empire State Building so the filmmaker could better visualize Kong’s final stand.
“That was a huge thrill for me,” Jackson said of ascending the landmark skyscraper via a workmen’s elevator, then a ladder.
To accommodate the crowds, Universal started some screenings as early as 6 p.m. and others as late as 7:45 p.m. For the first five minutes, where Jackson and stars Naomi Watts, Jack Black and Adrien Brody sat, the film sound was about half a second out of synchronization. The problem -- one of the few of the night -- was promptly fixed.
The premiere gave composer James Newton Howard a chance to finally meet the film’s director. Howard was hired just six weeks ago, after the film’s original composer, Howard Shore, parted ways with the project because of artistic differences. Given the tight deadline, Howard orchestrated the music from Los Angeles, while Jackson reviewed it from New Zealand.
Thanks to the staggered starting times, Universal was able to transport the throngs across town to a reception for 3,000 people.
Universal Pictures Chairwoman Stacey Snider praised Jackson for his “master work,” even though, under a previous regime, Universal had refused to make the movie. The premiere was very much aimed at establishing a profile for Jackson’s film, which opens Dec. 14. “We didn’t have the movie until last Wednesday,” said Marc Shmuger, Universal Pictures vice chairman. “This is our way of getting the word out.”
With an obviously biased audience, which included Donald Trump, George Lucas, Glenn Close, actor-comedian Richard Belzer and Fay Wray’s daughter and son-in-law, Victoria Riskin and David Rintels, the word was uniformly enthusiastic, with many guests sobbing at the film’s conclusion. Through their tears, however, some spotted Jackson in a cameo as one of the pilots buzzing Kong in the final scene.