Party mecca Tribeca

The Muppets take Manhattan, again

NEW YORK — “When you start out in a swamp, you don’t expect to end up at the Tribeca Film Festival,” quipped A-list amphibian Kermit the Frog April 27at a preem of ABC and Touchstone’s “The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz.”

Introducing the pic with Robert De Niro, to a packed house that included James Gandolfini, Kelly Osbourne and a swath of screeching kiddies, the circumspect green guy told the expectant aud, “Maybe you should hold your applause till after you see (the movie), because maybe it won’t be worth applauding. I mean, critics are critics, and that’s cool.”

Strangely, the family pic’s after-party was held at impenetrably velvet roped Meatpacking District beat palace P.M., complete with a tip sheet that read “Remember: What happens in Oz, stays in Oz.” But when your pic’s star is R&B diva Ashanti, and the guest list includes indicted hip- hop impresario Irv “Gotti” Lorenzo, Chuck ECheese just won’t cut it.

For a more adult crowd, publishing and real estate magnate Mort Zuckerman sat down with producer-helmer Irwin Winkler at a one-on-one chat called “Irwin Winkler & the Political Thriller” on April 25.

Zuckerman steered the talk through chilly topics from the Cold War, racism and Vietnam to the space race, betwixt clips of Winkler pics. But film fans did get some behind-the- scenes anecdotes from Winkler in the mix.

“We didn’t have the technology that George Lucas has now,” said Winkler recalling the making of the Oscar-winning “The Right Stuff.” “To show Chuck Yeager‘s plane crashing, one of the (film’s crew) put lead in the nose of a model airplane and threw it out of a window in San Francisco against blue sky. We shot it and then also showed it in reverse.”

Another highlight came when Costa-Gavras crashed the stage to talk about his Winkler-produced pic “Betrayed.”

This year more than ever, Tribeca’s triangular borders have served as a nightly, can’t-miss party pen, and the otherwise deserted neighborhood’s diverse venues provided a veritable playground for night owls.

On April 25, an after-bash for the indie contempo romance pic “Satellite” saw cadres of hipsters descend on the Knitting Factory to check out bands from the pic’s edgy soundtrack.

“We kind of have a punk rock attitude to filmmaking,” said “Satellite” helmer Jeff Winner. “We just go and do it and take care of it.”

From pot smokers and power brokers, an apres event for docu “The American Ruling Class,” held on the floor of the New York Mercantile Exchange, saw Harper’s editor Lewis Lapham hold court with an upscale crowd under an American flag made of colorful balloons. Broadwayites who are familiar with opening nights on West 45th didn’t know how to handle the crowd melee at the April 21 opening of “Show Business” at Tribeca.

Guards ordered VIPs to wait in line with the hoi polloi off the Hudson River. A maze of tables had to be negotiated to finally land a ticket. Inside, legit crix were shunted off to the theater’s outer limits. And the “Avenue Q” crowd took the seats in the back, only to be reseated in a more appropriate mid-venue section.

The Dori Berinstein-helmed docu focuses on the puppet show, as well as three musicals that did not win the 2003-04 Tony: “Caroline, or Change,” “Taboo” and “Wicked.” Despite getting to relive the big awards moment, “Avenue Q” producer Robyn Goodman said, “I was very anxious watching the film.”

Over in the “Wicked” corner, producer Marc Platt took the fifth at the Tribeca Grill party. Raul Esparza of “Taboo” remarked on “how positive I seemed” in the film. “When I think of ‘Taboo,’ I think of things that went wrong. The film was hard to watch.”

As the Tribeca Film Fest rolled on with high volume screenings, indie rom-com “Alchemy” unspooled before packed aud at Regal Cinemas. Shot in New York, the cast and crew were on hand for the screening and the Q&A that followed.

Helmer Evan Oppenheimer dominated the Q&A, fielding questions from the crowd, and joking. “I just finished the movie basically this week.”

Other notable, upmarket events around Tribeca included Sony Pictures Classics’ intimate dinner for Sally Potter‘s “Yes,” at Bubby’s, where Potter mingled with Tim Robbins, Joan Allen and SPC brass.

Robert Hofler and Willa Paskin contributed to this report.