Three of this year’s US awards season contenders—“Life of Pi,” “Zero Dark Thirty” and “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”—opened in local theaters on Wednesday but the buzz that day was about yet another trophy magnet bound for Manila, though not until next week.
“Les Miserables” was to be screened for dignitaries, celebrities and the media in a strictly-invitational red-carpet premiere event at Resorts World Manila’s Newport Theater for the Performing Arts.
The 1,500-seat venue was about three quarters packed (not always an easy feat to pull) and it was a dream crowd, decidedly well-heeled: Save for a couple of courageous young women in distressed denims and hot pants (and a few artist-types who smugly flaunted hobo chic), many of the ladies turned up in black evening outfits with beaded shawls, or figure-hugging, leg-baring, shimmering cocktail dresses, on the arms of escorts in dark jackets.
Choice cuts from the “Les Mis” soundtrack were played, creating sing-along clusters, big and small, among members of the audience already seated.
Screening was to start at 8 p.m. after a 20-minute program—two speeches, plus a “Les Mis” medley by six theater performers with Maestro Ryan Cayabyab.
(In his short address, local distributor Solar Entertainment’s chair/CEO Wilson Tieng asked house technicians not to turn up the lights right after the screening, to give male viewers time to stop sniffling and compose themselves.)
When, after the mini-show, a 15-minute break was called “because the movie runs for two hours and 40 minutes,” a good size of the audience dashed to the comfort rooms but not a few sank back in their seats annoyed, sensing a red flag.
The soundtrack continued to play, but the intermittent community singing stopped altogether. The guests had waited at least an hour at this point. Fifteen minutes became 40, at the end of which a “technical difficulty” was announced. On the second such announcement, some celebrity guests started filing out. The third was a choppy fare-thee-well. “Regret to cancel… technical problem… free tickets in exchange…”
Curiously enough, Newport Theater emptied out to a cackle of laughter and jokes. (“This is miserable!” “Les Mis-take!” and so on. Some wondered about the promised post-screening cocktails… and parking fee refunds.) The Pinoy sense of humor truly defies explanation. Or maybe letdowns, like a few other things, are just more fun in the Philippines.
Before midnight, Resorts World and Solar had issued an explanation:
“The scheduled by-invitation red carpet premiere of the movie “Les Miserables” at the Newport Performing Arts Theater, was cancelled due to technical difficulties. For any inconvenience caused, guests will be issued free replacement tickets to the regular screening of “Les Miserables” at the Newport Cinemas from January 16-23, upon presentation of premiere invitations.”—Emmie G. Velarde