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A Batman premiere forever in Leicester hearts

By midlandsmovies, May 15 2020 09:41AM

A Batman premiere forever in Leicester hearts

Leicester Square! The home of the red-carpet movie premiere in the country. Well, the famous London location didn’t get its hands on one particular UK premiere back in the 90s - but the city of Leicester in the Midlands sure as hell did. Holy cinema, Batman!

For it was on 12th July 1995, the European premiere of Batman Forever unbelievably took place on an industrial estate just outside this East Midlands city. What?? You heard right. A 9-screen Warner Cinema complex opened at Meridian Leisure Park on the outskirts of Leicester and to celebrate its launch, Warner Brothers decided to launch its summer blockbuster right here.

A sequel to the 1992 film Batman Returns and the third instalment of the 90s Batman film series, superstar Val Kilmer replaced Michael Keaton as the caped crusader. He appeared alongside a host of Hollywood hot properties including Tommy Lee Jones, Jim Carrey, Nicole Kidman and Chris O'Donnell.

But given its slightly less than elegant whereabouts, this event probably just had z-list celebrities though, right? Well, there were a few it must be said. But amongst 90s Neighbours soap opera actor Craig McLaughlin and British entertainer Bradley Walsh, the film’s stars Val Kilmer and Chris O’Donnell did in fact attend the bash!

As well as that, director Joel Schumacher was also present with many of these A-listers dropped off by helicopter right next to the glamorous M1 motorway. And to welcome them all to Leicester, a frankly astonishing 2,500 people were invited to be a part of this special occasion.

The recently constructed cinema was unique as well, resembling as it did a giant film set. High ceilings had hanging lamps and gantries added, and placed alongside were life-size models of the Looney Tunes characters. It sounds as gaudy as the sets from Batman Forever itself.

Gabrielle Miller, owner of Cool As Leicester, was there on the day and fondly remembers the event. “I loved that day. My mum took us down early to be near the front because I wanted to see Ryan Giggs and my sister wanted to see Craig McLaughlin. It was completely mental that there was an actual film premiere down the road! I remember Craig McLaughlin turned up in some leather outfit and being very excited”.

Other celebrities out on the carpet included the band Oasis, Julie Walters, Patsy Kensit and half of the Manchester United football team.

Truly one of the strangest cinematic events to befall the Midlands, another attendee was young Leicester resident Mathew Pearce who was involved in even more bizarre antics. “I got a signed football that was kicked out into the crowd with the autographs of the cast on it”, says Mat.

“I remember getting into huge trouble because I was 10 and didn't tell anyone I was going. You can imagine to a small kid that getting one of those balls was the most exciting thing possible. Bradley Walsh must have presented it and came over to us with Lesley Joseph. I remember being scared because her character Dorian was a bit mean in Birds of a Feather”.

Mat finishes off, “Bradley Walsh asked if I wanted him to sign the ball as well. I said ‘I don't know who you are but sure’. He just laughed and signed it. I was dark when I got home and I was grounded for an eternity but well worth the punishment”

“It really was a great day and obviously growing up in Braunstone it was massive having all of these film stars come to town. There were helicopters flying over the house all night and Warner Brothers had Batman-style lasers lighting up the sky that you could see for miles”.

Local drama principal Karen Stevens has fond recollections too. “I won tickets to the screening an hour before in Town Hall Square. I raced down in whatever I was wearing to walk the red carpet!”

Despite mixed reviews (and the ugly addition of nipples on the Batsuit), the film was in fact a financial hit grossing over $336 million at the box office worldwide. And its successful soundtrack featured monster hit singles "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me" by U2 and "Kiss from a Rose" by Seal.

And one final shock from the time was the remarkable fact Batman Forever was nominated for three Oscars! Less surprisingly however was that it won zero.

So come on, Hollywood. What are you afraid of? The welcoming and friendly folk of Leicester ask you to set your spotlights once again on our fair city. Let’s see another huge premiere head our way as it’s about time you tried to top the last one.

Michael Sales

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