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The Dark Knight reached a critical mass of buzz this year. With the film finally hitting theaters tomorrow, stars Maggie Gyllenhaal, Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Batman himself, Christian Bale, gathered Monday night for the film's official premiere, with a screening at the AMC Loews Lincoln Square and an after-party for 600 atop the Mandarin Oriental Hotel.
The only Imax theater in Manhattan, where overwhelming demand prompted the theater to offer midnight, 3 a.m. and even 6 a.m. screenings the night before its official release, Lincoln Square was a natural choice for the movie, which was filmed with Imax cameras. Before the screening got underway, film composers Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard treated guests to a live performance featuring musicians playing down the theater aisles and a brief light show choreographed to the film's score.
When the curtain closed on the 152-minute movie, it was time for the after-party. Warner Brothers' Bonnie Horton, Chad Hudson, Courtney Saylor, and Troy Williams oversaw the event and enlisted Wendy Creed Productions to recreate the sinister tone of the film on the 36th floor of the Mandarin Oriental. Guests departed Lincoln Square in school buses (a reference to the film), and traveled nine blocks down Broadway, where the bat signal beckoned buses to the black carpet stretched out in front of the hotel.
High above the real Gotham City, the Mandarin Ballroom, cloaked in black, had all the airs of an elite penthouse party, with one small catch. Wendy Creed covered the room in the Joker's taunting red graffiti, also used in the film's promotional campaign. “Reserved” signs were slashed with Xs, “Ha Ha Ha” decorated almost every window, and a wall of flat-screen televisions featured imagery from the film with eyes crossed out and insulting messages smeared across them. It was as if the Joker had crashed the party himself, creating a dark tone, made even darker by the circumstances of the film.
After all, The Dark Knight is the penultimate film made by actor Heath Ledger and has seen its hype catapulted by his death in January and his critically lauded performance as the Joker. The ballroom was as much haunted by the absent comic book villain as it was by the departed star.
As if the media hadn’t already provided enough exposure for the premiere (The New York Observer alone ran four articles on the film this week), Warner Brothers staged a few prominent stunts this month. Two weeks ahead of the premiere, the Bat Signal lit up the front of the Woolworth building, and earlier this week the Batmobile Tumbler showed up outside Lincoln Square.