Gotham’s big fest

N.Y. Film Fest opens with 'Celebrity' bow

NEW YORK — While Woody Allen’s “Celebrity” makes its North American premiere as the opening night film of the 36th New York Film Festival tonight at Lincoln Center, Allen will be in a Queens garbage dump, on the set of his latest movie.

Although it is traditional for the director to be present for the opening night film, Allen’s spokeswoman said the Film Society of Lincoln Center was aware that Allen might have a scheduling conflict when it made its selection.

The last time a director was not on hand for opening night was three years ago, when the Chinese government declined a travel visa to Zhang Yimou, who made “Shanghai Triad.” The Chinese were upset that the Tiannamen Square documentary “The Gates of Heavenly Peace” was also screening at the fest.

Had Allen been shooting in Manhattan tonight, he might have stopped by the opening night party at Tavern on the Green, which begins at 11:15 p.m., his spokeswoman said.

But Allen isn’t expected to finish work until 1 a.m. on Saturday. He will still have time to attend a latenight party that “Celebrity” distributor Miramax Films is throwing at the restaurant Gabriel’s, though. Even though Allen is skipping the NYFF festivities at Lincoln Center, the film’s cast will be represented. Among those skedded to attend are Leonardo DiCaprio, Kenneth Branagh, Winona Ryder, Bebe Neuwirth, Joe Mantegna, Famke Janssen, Robert Cuccioli, Charlize Theron, Donald Trump, Isaac Mizrahi and Gretchen Mol, as well as producers Jean Doumanian and Letty Aronson, Allen’s sister.

Others who will walk down the red carpet at Lincoln Center include Lauren Bacall, Cameron Diaz, Diane Keaton, Nora Ephron, Dominique Swain, Chris Rock, Isabella Rossellini, Ian McKellen and Marisa Tomei.

Some 60,000 people are expected to watch 26 pics from 15 countries at this year’s NYFF, which runs through Oct. 11. For the third consecutive year, Grand Marnier is the sponsor of this year’s festival.

Film society executive director Joanne Koch said that demand for tickets has been unprecedented for the two overlapping opening night screenings — one in Avery Fisher Hall, which seats 2,700, and another in Alice Tully Hall, which seats 1,100.

“In my 28 years here, I’ve never seen such demand for opening night as there is this year,” said Koch. “It’s a raving success.”

There should be fewer complaints about the sound in Alice Tully Hall this year, following Lincoln Center’s recent purchase of a Dolby digital sound system.

Koch said she is not expecting the New York premiere of Todd Solondz’s provocative film “Happiness” to stir up controversy among the film society’s members. “They know what they’re getting,” she told Daily Variety.

The tale of three sisters, one of whom is married to a pedophile, was dropped by specialized pic distribu-tor October Films because of concerns by majority owner Universal Studios that it might receive an NC-17 rating. The pic will be the first theatrical release of Good Machine Intl. Good Machine, which produced “Happiness” along with Killer Films, will release the pic in New York on Oct. 11 without a rating. It bows in L.A. on Oct. 16.

Some NYFF tickets are still available to the public screenings of Austrian director Stefan Ruzowitsky’s “The Inheritors,” Japanese helmer Shohei Imamura’s “Doctor Akagi,” French director Gaspar Noe’s “I Stand Alone” and Iranian helmer Samira Makhmalbaf’s “The Apple.”

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