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Behind the Scenes: Indiana Jones comes to Harlem

  • Story Highlights
  • New "Indiana Jones" film has U.S. premiere in Harlem
  • Why there? Helps build electricity for the film, says exec
  • Harrison Ford and Shia LaBeouf guest on "106 & Park"
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By Lola Ogunnaike
CNN
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In our Behind the Scenes series, CNN correspondents share their experiences in covering news and analyze the stories behind the events. CNN's Lola Ogunnaike went to Harlem for the U.S. premiere of "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull."

Indiana Jones

Karen Allen, Harrison Ford and Shia LaBeouf attend the "Indiana Jones" premiere in Harlem, New York, Tuesday.

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Harlem isn't the first place that comes to mind when one thinks of a movie premiere. The Chinese Theater in Hollywood? Definitely. The Ziegfeld in Manhattan? Of course.

The AMC Magic Johnson Theatre complex on 125th Street? Not so much.

But there were Harrison Ford and Shia LaBeouf Tuesday evening, right around the corner from the Apollo, grinning and posing for overzealous photographers and over-caffeinated fans at the U.S. premiere of "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull."

It was a far cry from the South of France, where Indiana Jones was reintroduced to the world last week at the Cannes Film Festival. No gowns, tuxes or diamonds in Harlem. No A-list celebrities, other than Ford's sweetheart Calista Flockhart. Video Watch the excitement of the "Indiana Jones" premiere in Cannes »

But what the festivities lacked in glitz they made up for in pure unadulterated fun -- and a key marketing opportunity for Indiana Jones and company.

The popular video show "106 & Park," also taping at the Magic Johnson Theatre, invited Ford and LaBeouf to their set. Most of the people in attendance weren't even born when the first Indiana Jones film was released in 1981, but that didn't seem to matter. They cheered when Ford began to bust a move as some music played. And LaBeouf's encyclopedic knowledge of rap also impressed the crowd.

It was the exact energy that the studio, Paramount Pictures, was looking for.

"We could've done it at the Ziegfeld, but the Ziegfeld is boring," Paramount executive Michael Vollman said. "The electricity here is incredible. Look around. You can't compare."

Electricity means nothing if it doesn't translate into the box office sales, he acknowledged, and "106 & Park," BET's highest-rated show, is a key way to generate energy. Bringing the film to Harlem ensures that both young moviegoers and black moviegoers aren't forgotten.

"We wanted to make sure every kid in America knew this movie was coming," he said. "BET is one of the best ways to reach those kids."

BET has long been a requisite stop on the promotional tour for any film aimed at black audiences, but in recent years mainstream films have begun to make the trek uptown. Tom Cruise spent an afternoon at "106 & Park" when he was promoting "Mission: Impossible 3."

"That was a watershed moment for us," said BET's president of entertainment, Reginald Hudlin.

Certainly, everybody seemed to be having a good time. At one point on "106 & Park," the rapper Jim Jones took the stage and performed "Ballin," an infectious ode to living it up that even has its own signature dance. Jim Jones taught Indiana Jones the dance (it looks like a fadeaway jump shot) and the crowd ate it up.

"When did you know you were ballin'?" "106 & Park" co-host Terrence J asked Ford.

"I be ballin' now," Ford answered, to wide approval.

(Warning: Spoilers ahead.)

Early reviews of the latest Indiana installment have been mixed, but the Harlem audience was firmly in Indiana's corner. "It gets 10 stars," said one audience member, Robert Egbert. "The sound effects were crazy and the action was off the hook. I loved the space ship!"

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And what of Ford? "That's my dude. He's mad old, but he's still got it."

Chalk up another victory for the man in the fedora.

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