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Producing a film premiere in one of New York’s treasured landmarks is daunting enough a task. But couple that with the simultaneous global premiere of a timepiece from a brand likened to the “Vatican of watches” and the pressure is on. On August 4, the two challenges were combined at the Rolex-sponsored premiere of James Cameron’s Deepsea Challenge 3D documentary, which took place inside the American Museum of Natural History’s Milstein Hall of Ocean Life. The event also doubled as the debut of the watchmaker’s Deepsea Sea-Dweller D-Blue dial diver timepiece.
For the occasion, Rolex enlisted its longtime event production firm, Tyger Productions, which worked alongside the watchmaker’s brand image, interior design, and marketing teams both in New York and Geneva, as well as the special events team at National Geographic, which produced the film. Additional coordination involved Disruptive LA, Avatar Alliance, and Lightstorm Entertainment.
“The American Museum of Natural History stood out as the clear choice as the Hall of Ocean Life is perfectly related to the nature of the event,” said Tyger Productions principal Ty Kuppig. “It also had great curb appeal to position the Deepsea Challenger sub from the expedition. The educational nature of the museum was also important as there were youth learning programs planned related to the expedition and the sub.”
Location secured, the body of the whale, which hangs overhead in the hall, posed the greatest challenge. “The custom-built projection booth had to be lowered to clear the bottom of the whale's head—11 feet—while not being so low that it was blocked by guests crossing the beam,” Kuppig said. “It was important to balance the size of the screen to ensure it be comfortable for guests’ viewing.”
Approximately 250 guests attended the event, including Charlie Rose, Larry David, Darren Aronofsky, David Blaine, and New York Police Commissioner William J. Bratton. The first visual they encountered was the Deepsea Challenger submersible, which was stationed outside the museum; event organizers coordinated with Earthship Productions to place the underwater vehicle on Central Park West and a custom fabricated surround masked the flatbed truck it was delivered on. Once inside, attendees settled into a theater-style setting formed by plush microsuede armchairs and surrounded by walls of string drapes which were designed to mimic the rustle of ocean waves.
Lighting played a major role not only in creating the underwater atmosphere but in changing the space throughout the evening as well. During cocktails on the balcony, lighting was concentrated on guests to make them feel like they were underwater. When it was time to be seated for the film, the seating was highlighted with a texture wash in soft light, sending a visual cue to guests. As the film ended, the underwater lighting effects were reintroduced, but this time with a soft white highlighting the bars, lounges, expedition displays, and, most importantly, the Rolex Deepsea watches in vitrines. “The overall effect was a seamless one in which guests never ‘surfaced’ from the underwater environment until they departed,” Kuppig said.
As for the food served, Catering by Restaurant Associates took its directive from the vegan diets of Cameron and his wife, Suzy Amis, serving a small tasting/tapas menu that included plantain ribbons, avocado toast, summer-squash pizza, sweet pea risotto, zucchini tomato lasagna, and vegan sushi. Desserts included grilled pineapple, coconut chips, assorted gelato, and passion fruit soufflé shots.
Kuppig’s team of 45 worked in the venue from the Saturday before the premiere right up to the day of the event. A seven-hour overnight strike ensued.