Showbiz is rocked by real life

It was the day the world stopped. The real world and the play world.

In the real world, casualties from terrorist bombings were estimated at more than 10,000, and the almost nonchalant hijackings of four airliners exposed the vulnerability of aviation security. In fact, all of America’s security was suddenly looking unprotected.

In the play world, events ranging from the Latin Grammys to the Emmys to the Broadway theater to baseball games were abruptly shuttered. Even many movie theaters closed for the day.

On Tuesday, studios quickly moved to postpone the openings of “Big Trouble” and “Collateral Damage,” due to their content. Networks canceled airings of explosion-heavy pics like “The Peacemaker” and “Independence Day”; networks axed promos for terrorist-themed shows “24″ and “The Agency.”

Production was halted on various films and TV shows, and network execs preempted schedules to cover the breaking news — and to fret about their upcoming fall skeds.

Pundits agreed that Sept. 11, 2001, like the date of the Kennedy assassination, would endure as a day that changed American society forever.

The nation virtually shut down — partly as a preemptive move against further incidents, partly to mourn the tragedy, and partly to allow people to watch the unfolding events on television with their loved ones.

All U.S. air travel was halted for the first time in history. The dollar plunged along with stock markets around the world.

Perhaps the most symbolic act in showbiz terms was the closing of the Happiest Place on Earth.

For the first time ever, Disney closed Disneyland and all other Anaheim and Orlando theme parks. (Individual parks had been shut on rare occasions, such as weather emergencies.) Universal Studios also shut its Hollywood and Florida theme parks.

Nearly all of Hollywood’s major studios, broadcast and cable networks, talent agencies and unions closed their doors Tuesday morning as word of the tragic events in New York and Washington swept through West Coast offices.

Showbizzers reeled in disbelief over the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, and the Pentagon, and in Pennsylvania.

The terrorist attacks in Gotham caused the collapse of the center’s two towers and killed thousands of people. In the aftermath, two other nearby buildings collapsed.

The death toll, as well as the military response to whoever is found responsible, was still being determined late Tuesday.

Most of the big congloms kept their Gotham doors open, including AOL Time Warner, Vivendi, News Corp. and Sony. Their main objective was to provide a haven for employees in need of telephones, food and perhaps even a place to stay as subways, bridges and tunnels from the city remained closed or clogged for much of the day.

Others in high-profile locations, like Rockefeller Center and Times Square, felt it was safer to shut down. The General Electric building, home to NBC, was evacuated and Viacom headquarters was shuttered.

A recorded message told callers that Viacom’s New York offices “are closed today due to the tragedy that has befallen our city and our nation.” Reopening depends on whether New York Gov. Pataki or Mayor Giuliani declare a state of emergency.

United Artists exec VP of theaters operations Neal Pinsker said the flagship Union Square location will stay open “as a safe haven for those who live in downtown Manhattan. … We have thousands of seats and plenty of floor space.”

Loews Cineplex prexy Travis Reid said the Gotham-based exhib closed its theaters and was planning to offer them as shelters as well with the city’s OK.

American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center at 8:45 a.m.; 18 minutes later, United Flight 175 hit the south tower. Fortunately, many Gotham-based showbizzers were not yet in their offices near the Trade Center due to later work schedules.

Such was the case at Miramax, whose Tribeca offices are a mere 10 blocks from the twin towers. At peak hours, there are roughly 300 employees working at the three Miramax offices in Tribeca, but only a fraction of that number had clocked in Tuesday.

James Schamus, producer and co-chairman of Good Machine, ordered the company’s Canal Street office shut down after a passerby told him about the unfolding disaster. Few people had reached work by that time.

Good Machine and its Lower Manhattan film brethren will likely remain closed at least through Wednesday. After that, a wary reorientation process will begin.

“Manhattan is still the nerve center,” Schamus asserted. “Obviously lower Manhattan below Houston, they’ve cordoned off. I can well imagine that things are going to be pretty unstable in Tribeca for quite some time.”

While L.A.-based series will likely resume production as early as this week, some Gotham productions could be dark much longer.

A Warner Bros. TV spokeswoman said she expected that New York-based “Third Watch” would be out of commission for days. Equipment from the production, which revolves around Gotham emergency workers, was made available to help deal with the massive fallout from the tragedy.

Elsewhere, there was little consensus on when a normal schedule of concerts and other public events might resume, pending clarification of the broader political and security ramifications of the terrorist attacks.

Both Universal and Disney expected to reopen their theme parks today. Even so, the one-day shutdown reps the loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue.

(Josef Adalian, Jonathan Bing, Carl DiOrio, Jill Goldsmith, Timothy M. Gray, Dade Hayes and Michael Schneider contributed to this report.)

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