How Fox Turned the New York Public Library Into 'Gotham' for a Night

For the premiere of its Batman prequel series, the TV network recreated three key locations from the show inside the New York landmark.

By Anna Sekula September 30, 2014, 7:00 AM EDT

Taking advantage of the resemblance of the New York Public Library's 42nd Street entrance to the façade of the police station featured in Gotham's first episode, the producers added a couple of details to emphasize the look. That included changing the flag hung above the doorway, swapping the lights in the lampposts with green globes, and projecting the Gotham City Police Department logo on the exterior walls.

Photo: Courtesy of Fox

'Gotham' Season One Premiere
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Police cars parked on the sidewalk, detectives frisking people, and uniformed policemen standing guard are not things typically seen at a TV premiere, but for the screening and celebration of Fox's new series Gotham, they were fitting sights. Based on DC Comics' Batman franchise, the TV show follows the rise of Gotham City Police Department commissioner James Gordon—alongside characters such as Bruce Wayne, the Penguin, and Catwoman—and so the network sought to recreate key visuals from the first episode for the September 15 event at the New York Public Library. Tasked with designing and producing the premiere and its ensuing party was Los Angeles-based Abel McCallister, which worked with Fox Broadcasting's senior producer of special events, Bob Stillo.

With its many rooms and its stately Beaux-Arts architectural design, the New York Public Library offered the organizers the space for red carpet arrivals, a screening, and an after-party, as well as built-in decor. Particularly suitable was the Midtown site's side entrance on 42nd Street, which closely resembled the exterior of the Gotham City Police Department shown in Gotham's first episode. The Edna Barnes Salomon Room on the third floor provided an intimate enough space to reproduce Fish Mooney's nightclub, a sultry setting with rich red and gold accents and chandeliers, while the adjacent hallway supplied the space necessary to imitate a dark alley with scaffolding, wooden pallets, and garbage cans.

Establishing the three Gotham locations at the landmark space did present some obstacles. As parts of the library were open to the public during the day, the production team couldn't begin the set up for the premiere party until 6 p.m. and had to store all decor, furniture, and other elements like barware in an adjoining room. And with the post-screening festivities set to start at 7:45 p.m., that left the organizers less than two hours to put the pieces into position.

Another challenge was directing guests from the screening in the Celeste Bartos Forum to the third-floor party space. As a clever way to tackle this and match the imagery used in the event's invitation, Abel McCallister placed a series of upright black umbrellas as markers. Clear acrylic bases held individual umbrellas, making it look as though they were balanced on their tips and enabling the producers to position the items through the hallways and up the stairs.

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