Joint Base Lewis-McChord went Hollywood on Wednesday night as the base hosted a premiere of “Iron Man 3.”
More than 900 service members and guests got to see the movie for free more than week before it opens in theaters, part of a marketing push involving the Army and Air Force Exchange Service, Marvel Comics and Skype.
The moviegoers got to walk down a red carpet at Carey Theater on the base, and more than a dozen soldiers and family members were invited to ask prepared questions over the Internet video service to the movie’s stars, who were attending the premiere in Los Angeles
Oscar winner Ben Kingsley, who plays the villain in the latest “Iron Man” sequel, and Gwyneth Paltrow, who plays Iron Man’s love interest, answered questions.
The biggest cheers were reserved for the star himself, Robert Downey Jr., expressing his appreciation to service members for defending the nation’s freedom.
“I admire each and every one of you so much,” he said.
Added Paltrow: “These are really uncertain times, and we appreciate so much what you’re doing.”
In addition, three soldiers and an airman assigned to Lewis-McChord were selected to invite two family members living in California to the L.A. premiere. The service members spoke with the family members over Skype before the film began.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Paula Meler told her son, Spc. Mitchell Meler, 20, from L.A. “I’ve never done anything like this. It’s a shocker.”
Earlier, the son said he appreciated the unique opportunity given to him and other soldiers.
“It’s not every day you can do this,” he said.
The military base theater, named after Medal of Honor recipient Staff Sgt. Alvin Carey, hosts single screenings of so-called “studio appreciation movies,” typically five days before their national release, said Paul Claxton, a manager who supervises the theater. It happens about six to 10 times a year, he said.
But they pulled out all the stops for “Iron Man 3.”
“This is the biggest event for a movie that we’ve ever done out here,” Claxton said.
The film arrived on a hard drive under heavy security. To prevent pirated copies, moviegoers were cautioned to stash their electronic devices or they’d be told to leave.
Tickets were handed out Saturday, and moviegoers began lining up four hours before doors opened.
“I think it’s awesome,” said Nicole Campbell, 25, of Puyallup, who attended with her husband, Lt. Martin Campbell, and dressed to the nines for the occasion. “They should do it more often.”
Maelisa Sanchez, 25, said her 4-year-old son Maverick is a huge fan of superheroes but was too young to attend Wednesday night.
“I set up a fun day for him,” she said, “ so he won’t even know.”