Preem parties go H’wood

Holiday bows full of Kodak moments

Premiere-goers will be seeing a lot of the Hollywood and Highland complex this December: Most of the big Christmas preem parties are scheduled for its fifth-floor Grand Ballroom, while the pics themselves will unspool next door at the recently renovated Mann Chinese Theater.

The Chinese/Grand Ballroom lineup begins with “Ocean’s Eleven” on Dec. 5, then shifts into gear with three preems on successive nights: “Vanilla Sky” on Dec. 10, “The Majestic” Dec. 11 and “Ali” Dec. 12.

Miramax may add “The Shipping News” to the mix Dec. 9.

Two major December releases not at this locale are U’s “A Beautiful Mind,” which will preem at the Academy on the 13th; and “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring,” whose main preem will be in London on the 10th. The smaller L.A. preem on Dec. 16 will benefit the AFI.

It’s easy to see why the Chinese/Grand Ballroom combo has such appeal.

There’s the “one-stop shopping” aspect — guests park once and then walk to the after-party from the Chinese. And, more than any other theater, Sid Grauman’s 1927 Mandarin kitsch masterpiece practically screams “Big Hollywood premiere!”

By using an upscale venue, the locale positions the film as an Academy Award kind of movie. Plus, there’s a curiosity within the industry about the room that will also host Oscar’s Governors Ball in March.

The ballroom is also large enough to accommodate all the 2,660 guests who can fill the seven theaters in the Chinese complex. Given cost cuts, however, look for some studios holding preems not to invite all the screening guests to the after-party.

Throw in that the ballroom is indoors and you have another key element for a winter premiere party venue.

In terms of cost, there’s a wash: You pay more than usual for catering, since Wolfgang Puck has an exclusive contract and he charges top dollar, but unlike setting up a tent or transforming a loft space, there’s no rental fee. Plus setup is easy since the kitchens, bars, tables and lighting are already there.

Another tradeoff is location. The Hollywood and Highland complex is centrally located, but rush-hour traffic heading for the Hollywood Freeway is a nightmare. And while some planners are turned off by the entry-way experience (“It’s like being in a shopping mall”), there’s a compensating newness to the venue.

If there’s a downside to the Grand Ballroom, it’s in trying to make the room look different on successive nights. “How do you make your premiere stand out?” one planner asked. “There’s not a whole lot you can do with it.”

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