Although it's one of the largest spaces for events in New York, the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center isn't typically used for movie premieres, but on Saturday, 20th Century Fox took over the Midtown West venue for the global premiere of X-Men: Days of Future Past. For Len Iannelli, the studio's vice president of special events, the site presented an opportunity to create an installation that could capture the popular film franchise's unique sci-fi visuals, engage the fan base in person and online, and set the tone for cast members and press.
“The modern architecture and design of the building screamed 'X-Men universe' to me, and the sheer size of the building made me realize that with the right elements and the number of fans the venue could support, we could produce a movie premiere that had the energy of a rock concert,” Iannelli said. “The cherry on top was that the screening space faced the Hudson River, and I imagined how a movie-going experience in that space could be magically enhanced alongside a nighttime view of the Hudson River and city skyline.” With those ambitious goals in mind, he tapped Samantha Sackler Productions to help turn the convention center's galleria into an arrivals area and adjacent River Pavilion into a movie theater.
Chief among the visuals was the entrance space, which Iannelli wanted to impact guests the moment they walked in. The production team covered the entryway with graphics inspired by metal vault-like doors to Cerebro—a device used by the character Professor Charles Xavier in the film. Inside, the visual was echoed in the 184-foot-long, 20-foot-tall backdrop for the red carpet. “Although we didn't consult Guinness, I'm pretty sure we may have set a record for the biggest and most complex step-and-repeat wall in the history of movie premieres,” Iannelli said. “It was 20 feet tall and nearly 200 feet long, and every logo was laser-cut and individually backlit.” Adding depth to the design were 10 X-shaped structures rigged to the ceiling.
Adding another element that referenced the film's distinct look, the team erected a stage at the end of the arrivals area and projected 18-foot-tall, 3-D holograms using technology from England-based company Musion.
In the glass-enclosed River Pavilion, Iannelli's team and the producers were tasked with constructing a 1,300-seat theater for the screening. That entailed equipping the unadorned space with a 60- by 25-foot screen for the digital 3-D projection provided by RealD 3D, bringing in a state-of-the-art sound system, and, of course, adding seating.
Perhaps the most impressive component of the production was incorporating space and activities for fans, which included carving out a section for them on the red carpet. “As most of the cast attested to in their interviews, it's the fans that have made the franchise what it is today. They are a rabid, passionate group of movie lovers and we wanted to make them a big part of the global launch of the film,” Iannelli said. More than 1,500 fans camped out overnight outside the convention center—the first 500 were not only given a spot in the arrivals area, but also the chance to see the new movie at an off-site location the same night as the premiere. For the other 1,000, the studio also offered an indoor area for them to watch arrivals on the Jumbotron.
“The fans along the red carpet provided an energetic and colorful background to the television interviews and our Yahoo-produced live stream show, sponsored by TCL,” Iannelli said. “Without question, the fans were instrumental in the success of the premiere.”
The film opens in theaters May 23.