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LOS ANGELES Since the downturn, many events have kept a low profile for perception's sake. The premiere of Universal Pictures' Brüno on Thursday, overseen by the studio's senior vice president of special projects, Hollace Davids, was not one of them.
Brüno's star, Sacha Baron Cohen, who plays a flamboyant gay Austrian fashion reporter, arrived at the premiere by way of a tricked-out tank—which was hidden in a tent on Hollywood Boulevard until the big reveal moments before the screening began at Grauman's Chinese Theatre. A throng of assembled fans whipped out camera phones to capture the spectacle. ELS handled street closures and permitting, logo signage and carpeting in an interlocking B pattern, stanchions and ropes, staging and bleachers for fans, crowd control, and media arrivals lighting.
“On Monday [before the Thursday premiere] we received a phone call from Hollace Davids at Universal regarding staging a red carpet stunt," said Angel City Designs' Mark Yumkas, whose team decorated the tank. “Baron Cohen wanted to come down Hollywood Boulevard sitting on a tank covered in rhinestones. As availability was limited for 1,500 square feet of sheeted rhinestones, [Angel City Designs partner and senior art director] Damon Drescher suggested mirror ball glass tiles. With only 36 hours before the tank needed to be delivered to the site, the vehicle was dropped off, painted silver, and completely covered in glass mirrored tiles.” ELS rented the tank from Army Trucks Inc., which transported it discreetly with a cover. (The tank had rubber treads so it was street legal.)
At the front of the theater, Baron Cohen announced in character that the movie about to be screened would be “the most important documentary since The Lion King,“ and “the most important movie starring a gay Austrian since Terminator 2.”
Following the screening, guests moved upstairs to the Annex at Hollywood & Highland complex for a party done primarily in white for a kitschy twist on a high-fashion look. ELS handled the party's coordination, technical production, lighting and sound, and Angel City Designs did the decor, which included animal-print throw pillows on white seating clusters. Gobos in jungle-inspired patterns covered white carpeting on the floor. Black-and-white blowup photos of the Brüno character lined the walls. Biz Markie served as DJ, and Wolfgang Puck provided the catering.
The street closures blocked off the Hollywood Walk of Fame star belonging to Michael Jackson, who had died unexpectedly a few miles to the west only hours earlier. A crowd of mourners and fans seeking to place flowers and mementos at the singer's star unknowingly went instead to the nearby star of another Michael Jackson, a former KABC radio personality. Fans were turned away near the correct star in deference to the event, and the Chamber of Commerce delayed an official tribute of flowers. The curious situation afforded the Brüno premiere some additional press, with cable and Web-based news hungry to fill a 24-hour coverage cycle after the pop star's death.