AG Eric Holder attends private screening of Sparkle in Oak Bluffs

It was a night out at the movies for friends of producer Debra Martin Chase. From left to right: Tim Francis, Sony Corp CEO Michael Lynton, Ann Walker, Ms. Chase, Obama advisor Valerie Jarrett, Attorney General Eric Holder and Harvard professor Henry Louis "Skip" Gates.
Photo by Angelina Godbout

It was a night out at the movies for friends of producer Debra Martin Chase. From left to right: Tim Francis, Sony Corp CEO Michael Lynton, Ann Walker, Ms. Chase, Obama advisor Valerie Jarrett, Attorney General Eric Holder and Harvard professor Henry Louis "Skip" Gates.

The stars came out in Oak Bluffs Monday evening for a private screening of the movie Sparkle, set to open across the United States on Friday. Almost 200 invited guests filed into the threadbare Island Theater, leased just for the occasion.

The atmosphere was a mix of Hollywood premiere, Obama fundraiser, and Oak Bluffs summer fun. There were hugs all around for Attorney General Eric Holder, Obama senior advisor and seasonal Island resident Valerie Jarrett, Harvard professor Henry Louis “Skip” Gates Jr. (also a seasonal resident), actor Chris Tucker, producer Debra Martin Chase, CBS morning show host Gayle King, and Sony Corporation chief executive officer Michael Lynton.

Secret Service and FBI agents, assigned to protect Washington officials, moved discreetly through the crowd of moviegoers and celebrity gawkers attracted by the commotion.

Ms. Martin Chase, Mr. Lynton, and his wife, Jamie Lynton, and Ann Walker hosted the film and an after-party at the restaurant Hooked just down the road in Hart Haven.

Ms. Martin Chase, a producer with an impressive list of movie credits (Cheetah Girls, Cinderella, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Princess Diaries, and most recently, Just Wright), produced the film, which stars Jordin Sparks and the late Whitney Houston in her final theatrical performance.

Jamie Lynton is a powerhouse fundraiser for President Obama.

Sparkle, a musical film directed by Salim Akil and produced by Stage 6 Films, is set for release on August 17. It is a remake of the 1976 film of the same name, which centered on three singing teenage sisters from Harlem who form a girl group in the late 1950s. The remake takes place in Detroit, Michigan, in the 1960s during the Motown era.

Benjamin “Buzzy” Hall, owner of the Island Theater, said he received a call months ago about the possibility of leasing his theater, which seats close to 400 people, but the final plans and a confirmation only arrived last week, along with a digital version of the film and a 35 mm print version, as backup, protected by a security agent hired to make sure it did not fall into the wrong hands.

The entertainment giant also provided a digital projector and technicians just for the occasion.

Mr. Hall said he offered the use of the Capawock Theater in Vineyard Haven, which is air-conditioned. But the hosts wanted the screening to take place in Oak Bluffs, the summer center of a longstanding, affluent seasonal African-American community.

“Everybody that was anybody in the black community that happens to be around in Oak Bluffs was there,” Mr. Hall said, adding that he had little time to spruce up a theater that he said is badly in need of some Hollywood makeup magic. He did manage to redo an aged carpet he said is composed mostly of bubble gum.

Sony footed the entire bill, which included an open bar of sorts — popcorn and refreshments from the concession stand on the house.

Mr. Hall downplayed the notion that his tiny, aging theater scooped the entire nation with the premiere showing of Sparkle. He drew a distinction.

“It wasn’t open to the public,” Mr. Hall said. “To be honest with you, I think it was the ruling class that got to see it before anyone else.”