NEW YORK — Ellis Island 1905: Scores of tattered Eastern Europeans arrive in America.
Ellis Island 2005: Scores of Will Smith fans “Get Jiggy” with the “Hitch” star.
The New York City landmark — a backdrop in Sony’s Smith starrer — served as the locale for the romantic comedy’s Thursday night preem.
Sony erected a theater and ferried out the guests, who mingled around a pile of frayed suitcases and immigration exhibits.
Timed perfectly with the event, Sony topper Howard Stringer commemorated the 40th anni of the week he moved to America, and the 20th anniversary of his U.S. citizenship. Before the pic, the projectionist put up an image of Singer Photoshopped into a black-and-white picture of a boatload of immigrants.
“Howard, I know that’s pretty emotional for you,” Smith said from a microphone. “Your first day.”
“I went to work at CBS as a clerk,” Stringer told Daily Variety. “The 1960s in America looked full of possibility.”
Later, Stringer took to the dance floor with Amy Pascal and Eva Mendes as Biz Markie and DJ Jazzy Jeff spun tunes. Smith also treated the crowd to a performance. But, not before he noted that, like Stringer, his family didn’t enter through the island.
“My people tended to come through the back door,” he quipped, but Jada Pinkett Smith‘s grandfather did enter through the island. “It was the white side,” he said. “So we got roots here; not the Alex Haley kind of roots, the other kind.”