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Pre-oscar money ball

Hollywood — The 10th annual Night Before party followed two traditions: wall-to-wall showbiz heavyhitters in a high-energy mood, and an evening of impressive fundraising, presented by Variety for 10 years now.

The event, at the Beverly Hills Hotel, raised $5.5 million for the Motion Picture & Television Fund, adding to more than $50 million raised at the past nine events.

At the fete, MPTF’s Ken Scherer saluted Jeffrey Katzenberg for all that he’s done, including his idea for the event a decade ago. “It’s really Jeffrey’s vision for this kind of party,” Scherer said.

After the first event in 2003, Katzenberg said, “I think we hit a home run.”

The home runs continued Feb. 25, with an all-star team in attendance. Steven Spielberg and Stacey Snider ushered in the Reliance group including Anil Ambani. J.J. Abrams chatted with George Lucas, while Meryl Streep huddled with Ron Meyer. Elton John literally bumped into Taye Diggs.

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Wendi Deng Murdoch took out her iPhone — replete with a Hello Kitty case — to take a picture of George Clooney, Stacy Keibler and Li Bingbing, but Katzenberg gallantly took the device and snapped the photo so she could join the group.

Among the many representing the exec branch were Jim Gianopulos, Ryan Kavanaugh, Leslie Moonves, Rob Moore, Jeff Robinov, Rich Ross, Tom Rothman, Jeff Small, Howard Stringer and Harvey Weinstein.

Also mingling were Chris Columbus, Christopher Dodd, Sam Gores, Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall, Laurie MacDonald and Walter Parkes, and Rick Nicita and Paula Wagner. The large thesp contingent included Leonardo DiCaprio, Gary Oldman, Octavia Spencer, Emma Stone and Max von Sydow.

Observed MPTF’s Bob Beitcher: “All the studios, the stars, film, television, independent producers, studio executives are here. It’s the one event where they can come, they know there’s no paparazzi, they’re totally protected, they can talk to each other pretty freely.”

Looking to the next 10 years, he said, “Who knows? But we have to keep reinventing ourselves.”

Indeed, the MPTF recently announced the goal of raising $350 million for the fund.

As is now tradition, Night Before partygoers had themselves photographed with the Target dog, although Chris Rock joked, “I’m a Walmart man.”

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