Iceland volcano disrupts film premieres

'Iron Man 2' event moved from London to Los Angeles

LONDON -- The volcanic ash cloud drifting across Europe has grounded the London world premiere of "Iron Man 2," which was planned for Monday, and has caused some to skip Tuesday's European charity premiere of the Miley Cyrus movie "The Last Song."

Although some flights were expected to resume in Britain and throughout continental Europe on Tuesday, the uncertainty claimed its first major movie events and threw future travel plans into question.

On Monday, Paramount and Marvel announced that they are moving the world premiere of "Iron Man 2" to Los Angeles -- depriving London of the sight of the movie's star-studded lineup that includes Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Scarlett Johansson, Mickey Rourke, Samuel L. Jackson and director Jon Favreau -- "due to the continuing travel uncertainty."

They promised that a special screening would still take place at London's Vue Westfield, the original venue for the premiere. International distribution of the movie, which begins rolling out worldwide April 28 in advance of its May 7 stateside opening, should be unaffected.

"Luckily, we had the copies of 'Iron Man 2' delivered a week ago, just before the volcano erupted," said an employee at German distributor Concorde, which will be bowing the Marvel actioner next month. "If they had been delayed, it would have been tight getting the film dubbed and mixed for the May 6 release."

Although "The Last Song" was scheduled to premiere in London as planned, the movie's director Julie Anne Robinson and stars Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth were unable to walk the red carpet at the Empire Leicester Square. Disney and Great Ormond Street Hospital Children's Charity pressed forward with the event, even though they faced a celebrity shortage.

Throughout the weekend, the effect of canceled flights reverberated throughout the entertainment business.

Such British acts as the Cribs, Bad Lieutenant and Delphi didn't make it to the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio, Calif. Stuck in London, Canadian rocker Bryan Adams was unable to attend the 39th Juno Awards in St. John's, Newfoundland, where he was to receive a humanitarian award Sunday, but he did appear via a satellite TV feed. Also marooned in London, designer/director Tom Ford wasn't able to appear Saturday at the GLAAD Media Awards in Los Angeles, where his film "A Single Man" was honored as the year's outstanding wide-release film.

Edgar Ramirez, star of Olivier Assayas' "Carlos the Jackal," found himself stranded in Caracas, unable to get to Paris, where the Festival de Cannes said Monday that the five-hour film has been added to the fest lineup as an Out of Competition title.

Denise Warren, president of New York Women in Communications, had to send her regrets when she couldn't get back to the city for the group's annual Matrix Awards luncheon at which Tina Fey, Sheryl Crow and Gayle King were feted.

Even as some airports planned to reopen Tuesday, NATS, Britain's air-traffic authority, said, "The volcano eruption in Iceland has strengthened, and a new ash cloud is spreading south and east toward the U.K."

On the film side, though -- even if Icelandic ash continues to keep European planes grounded -- the widespread use of digital-distribution technology means that major studios will not see any big interruption at the start of the summer movie season. An increasing proportion of copies for Hollywood tentpoles are now delivered digitally to cinemas via satellite, making air-traffic regulations irrelevant. Nearly every major studio uses Smartjog or a similar digital-delivery system to provide its international outlets with press and marketing material.

"We had some sound material scheduled to be sent on DVD by Fed Ex that was held up," said Alexandra Meister of Germany's Senator Film. "But we were able to switch over to an FTP server for that. There haven't been any major problems so far."

Europe's big TV players are adopting a wait-and-see approach to the continuing confusion, with a slew of companies, including NBC Universal, Fremantle, Disney, Zodiak Television and Endemol, maintaining that they are monitoring the situation.

Last week, companies struggled to deal with the immediate fallout of canceled flights as hundreds of executives were heading home from the Riviera-side MIPTV market.

With some airports in Spain and southern Europe opening after five days of closure, there is optimism that at least some flights will be back up in the air, enabling trapped executives to get on board transatlantic flights.

But the longer-term situation remains far from clear, potentially affecting such events as Cannes and the L.A. Screenings, taking place next month.

The sports world also has been impacted. Olympic runner Abdellah Falil of Morocco withdrew from Monday's Boston Marathon after his transatlantic flights repeatedly were canceled. The absence of several Kenyan pacemakers also affected race times Sunday at the Vienna Marathon.

Hundreds of elite competitors have been expected to fly into the U.K. for next week's London Marathon, but even if flights resume, travelers still face uncertainty as the airlines work through the backlog of stranded passengers.

Although several big-time events, including Champions' League soccer semifinals, are going ahead as planned, teams have resorted to trains and ferries to work around the airport shutdown.

Scott Roxborough in Cologne, Germany, Etan Vlessing in Toronto, Georg Szalai in New York and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
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