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Hollywood is preparing to decamp for Denver for what could be the frothiest showbiz participation in a political convention ever.
There will be almost as many invite-only events featuring Hollywood stars and studio bigwigs at the Democratic National Convention as there will be proceedings planned for the podium or parties for the faithful. This go-round will rival if not surpass the star power of the 1960 and 1992 conventions, where glitzy candidates John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton attracted an unusually large contingent of their Tinseltown friends and supporters. But both of those confabs were held in sprawling, distracted Los Angeles; in the much narrower confines of Denver, the impact of the Hollywood heavyweights might be even more noticeable.
Sen. Barack Obama’s own rock-star status no doubt also will ratchet up the sizzle factor.
Celebrities expected to attend at least some of the events in the Mile High City include Ben Affleck, Josh Brolin, Annette Bening, Spike Lee, Anne Hathaway, Susan Sarandon, Richard Schiff and Kerry Washington.
Among the likely execs on hand will be Sony’s Michael Lynton, DreamWorks’ Jeffrey Katzenberg, Endeavor’s Ari Emmanuel, producer Lawrence Bender and Comcast’s Jeff Shell — all of whom have served on Obama’s National Finance Committee.
And because it is in Denver, the home of the country’s key coterie of cablers, companies like Starz are among those that intend to make the most of their host perch.
Prominent figures from entertainment, mainstream and new-media and literature will be part of what the John Malone-backed cable conglomerate has dubbed the Starz Green Room, a venue just steps from the main convention hall in the Pepsi Center.
Stressing that it is “a topical but nonpartisan undertaking,” Starz organizers are positioning their initiative as a complement to the official events of the convention, which runs Aug. 25-28. The schedule ranges from socially themed films and panel discussions to an online film competition discussing the meaning of democracy. The program is being produced by Starz Entertainment and its partners SeaChange Communications, founded by Jamie McGurk and Victoria Hopper; the Impact Film Festival, founded by Jody Arlington, Jamie Shor and Kimball Stroud; and the Denver Film Society, based at the Starz FilmCenter in the Tivoli.
Among the participants at one Starz event or another are Brolin, Affleck, Charlize Theron and Morgan Spurlock, who will either cross paths with or interface with such politicians as Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and assorted other city, state and national elected officials. Pundits, bloggers and activists on hand will include Arianna Huffington, John Podesta, Hilary Rosen, Walter Isaacson and Dennis Prager.
Panel topics planned for the SeaChange Ideas Forum range from how high-profile friends help politicians succeed to the increasing role of viral videos and social networks in political debate and an examination of the role of faith-based voters and alternatives to military solutions for solving global crises.
The Impact Film Festival is presenting such contemporary films as “Flow,” “Battle in Seattle,” “Trouble the Water” and “The Black List,” which will be followed by conversations with the filmmakers and others associated with the projects. Also included are “The Visitor” and “Henry Poole Is Here” from Overture Films, the theatrical division of Starz.
Another organization fielding a sizable Hollywood contingent in Denver is the nonprofit Creative Coalition, which with Target is sponsoring a gala featuring a benefit performance by the Black Eyed Peas on Aug. 27 at the Fillmore Auditorium.
The Creative Coalition is focused on bringing Hollywood star power to bear on such issues as health care and education reform, public funding for the arts and affordable housing. The Creative Coalition neither endorses nor raises funds for political parties or candidates and also will be present at the Republican National Convention.
Robin Bronk, executive director of the Creative Coalition, said that what matters most at these conventions is not star power itself but how such power can draw attention to the issues.
“We have a great track record of bringing substance with splash,” she said.
In addition to hosting the Wednesday night gala, the Creative Coalition will host a luncheon honoring Bening and the 14 female senators of the 109th Congress. A Screen Media Films documentary about the senators and narrated by Bening, “14 Women,” will get its close-up at the morning reception at Earl’s restaurant in Denver.
“14 Women” is one of several films that Screen Media and the Creative Coalition will be showing during both the Democratic and Republican conventions.
The “Spotlight Initiative” highlights films — “Skid Row,” “Big Rigs,” “Honeydrippers” and “14 Women” — that have a social message.
Robert Baruc, president of Screen Media Films, said Monday that the films’ messages are key.
“We feel they address important issues,” Baruc said. “Here is a platform where we will have the eyes of important people in politics.”
Lee will be honored Sunday night, just before the convention’s opening, at a reception sponsored by the National Black Caucus of State Legislators, the Creative Coalition and Eli Lilly. It’s to honor the accomplishments of black leaders in the field of public policy. “Gospel Hill,” a film by Giancarlo Esposito starring Danny Glover and Angela Bassett, will unspool Monday morning at a brunch in Denver.
Elizabeth Guider reported from Los Angeles; Paul J. Gough reported from New York.
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