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[Room Tone]Industry premieres: Glitz, glamour and grind

July 11, 2024 - 17:13 By Korea Herald

Industry film premieres are a delicate high-wire act where glitz and glamour can quickly devolve to grind, depending on your bias toward large social gatherings. From the stressful hunt for parking to navigating the after-party, the night is abundant with the complexities of a blockbuster film production.

First off, dress code: Assuming you aren’t walking the photo line, there is none. Its important to note that during the winter months, the theaters really crank up the thermostat to sauna room levels. I would advise wearing removable layers, lest you get stuck wearing a thick wool sweater during an especially long film.

Off to the venue. Depending on the film’s distribution company, the premiere will be held either in Yongsan, Samseong-dong or Jamsil. If it's Jamsil, I prefer to take the subway or else risk enduring a 90-minute ride in rush-hour traffic.

Upon arrival at the venue, you fight your way through the crowded lobby filled with fans hoping to catch a glimpse of their favorite star and find the will-call ticket counter, where a friendly employee will have considerable difficulty tracking down your tickets due to fact that they have filed you under a different name.

Inside the theater, you find your seat -- usually wedged between a guest of the film's financer and a member of the lead actor’s fan club. You suddenly remember that the film is two and a half hours long and decide to make a last-minute trip to the restroom. But the lights dim, and you sit back down, quietly kicking yourself for not thinking ahead.

Post-screening, as the crowd quietly files out, there usually is a prompt rush towards the lobby restrooms as you aren’t the only one who decided a large iced Americano before the screening was a good idea. Side note: The lobby restrooms are a great place to gauge the unfiltered knee-jerk reactions to the film.

Now with crisis adverted, the after-party awaits -- an event that promises an evening of warm beer, uncomfortable chairs and celebrity sightings. This is where you’ll find yourself rubbing elbows with A-listers, non-A-listers and those mysterious individuals who seem to exist solely for their ability to appear at every after-party.

After taking a large breath, you walk into the after-party, hoping quickly to find a friendly face.

Thankfully, you spot a table of familiar faces and grab a corner seat. They are already engaged in a deep discussion of the night’s film. You quietly nod along, praying they don’t ask you what you thought of the film.

As par for the course, social interactions are a minefield of name-dropping and self-promotion, all the while keeping one eye on the table of A-listers at the back of the room. The food at these events is usually lackluster and -- more than once -- you find yourself regretting not getting that hot dog at the theater concession stand.

As the night winds down and your social battery is depleted, you attempt a graceful exit, swiftly gliding through the crowded room with a series of nods and hand waves -- all without breaking a stride. You finally make it to the exit, the relief of the cool night air just beyond those automated sliding doors. But wait, someone calls your name.

Whether you thrive in the glamour or merely survive the grind, attending a film premiere can be a hero’s journey unto itself, fraught with challenges that test the limits of one’s stamina and patience -- requiring courage, strategy and a healthy dose of self-compassion.

So, the next time you are extended an invite to a film screening, don’t forget: Smile, nod and no matter how many times you are asked, don’t tell anymore what you really thought of the film.


Thomas Suh is the founder and managing director of Systeme D Entertainment, a film, media and entertainment company that specializes in content acquisition, management and production for film and television. “Room Tone,” the title of Suh’s column series, refers to the ambient sound of a space in which filming takes place. Thomas Suh can be reached at — Ed.