At Universal's Public Enemies Chicago Screening, Producers Prepare for Rain—and Bowlers

In the six weeks leading up to the Chicago screening of Universal's Public Enemies, crowd control was the priority—then, severe thunderstorm warnings came into play.

By Jenny Berg June 23, 2009, 5:42 PM EDT

Universal Studios lined the red carpet with 1930s vehicles

Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Universal's Public Enemies Screening
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Last summer, when Universal Studios filmed its soon-to-be-released Public Enemies in Chicago, camera-phone-armed locals crowded around barricades that closed off streets filled with 1930s vehicles, a slew of cameramen, and—if gawkers showed up at a fortuitous time—the stars of the gangster flick, Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, and Marion Cotillard. On Thursday night, a similar scene took place outside the AMC River East 21 theater, where the studio hosted what it called a “Chicago special screening premiere" of the movie.

Though the film's official premiere will take place in Los Angeles Tuesday night, Universal Studios hosted a prior screening in Chicago for some pretty straightforward reasons: ”Public Enemies was filmed here," said Katie Hall, an event prodcuer at XA, the Experiential Agency, which facilitated planning efforts for the screening. “Also, Michael Mann is not only the film's director, he's also a co-producer. And Chicago is his hometown." 

After working with XA on a screening of The Break-Up in 2006, Hollace Davids, senior vice president of special projects at Universal Studios, called Hall about six weeks ago to produce the red carpet at the theater and handle decor and venue selection for the party. Hall said she immediately recommended the River East Art Center—which is located across the street from the movie theater—to host the latter part of the evening.

Though venue selection was relatively easy, Hall said crowd control was a major concern. “You take A-list talent like Johnny Depp and Christian Bale, and security is automatically an issue,“ she said. “We had to have a plan in place for getting talent in and out [of the movie theater and the River East Art Center] in a secure way, and we had to be prepared for everything." After hiring Illinois Protection & Investigation LLC, Hall said that she lead several walkthroughs of the movie theater and event space to ensure that staffers were familiar with the venues' multiple access points.

Before the screening of the film, Depp and the other Public Enemies actors walked the red carpet on a closed-off section of Illinois Street. “There are four lanes outside of the theater,“ Hall said, “and we decided to [set up the carpet] on the streets instead of on the sidewalk." The red carpet's position allowed for pedestrians to enter the AMC theater building, which houses a Lucky Strike Lanes that remained open during the screening. “The venue is open to the public, so if people wanted to go bowling, we had to let them go bowling,“ said Hall, “that was a big contingent with the property management." 

Last Monday, a final challenge presented itself when Hall tuned in to the local weather forecast. “It was calling for severe thunderstorms,” she said. ”Rain is one thing, but when you see severe thunderstorms in the forecast, you really need to plan for a hurricane, almost. Especially because Johnny Depp's detail told us that he wanted to sign autographs, rain or shine. We couldn't let anything go awry.” Hall immediately put her rain plan into effect, calling on Partyime Productions to create a cover for the red carpet. Chalk it up to Murphy's law: On Thursday, the skies were clear. “But it all turned out well,“ Hall said. “Even though we didn't have rain, the tents provided a nice shade and shelter for the press." 

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