When you’re a superstar like Prince was, you can’t just go to a movie like the rest of us. Imagine if Prince showed up and took an aisle seat? He’d be so mobbed, no movie could hold a candle to the attention he would receive. In 1998, Prince went above and beyond to get a private show a movie starring then rising star Halle Berry.
AL.com reported on the closing of a Huntsville, Alabama movie theater on Jan. 28. Among memories shared by staff and patrons of the theater was this story of the time Prince came to town, and the Halle Berry film that brought him to the movies.
When Prince came to Huntsville
The Hollywood 16 opened in 1994 in Huntsville. Regal bought the theater in 1997 and by 2000 they added two more screens to make it the Regal Hollywood Stadium 18. The theater only shut down in March 2020 due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Unfortunately, it never reopened and demolition began Jan. 27. AL.com reports on a visit from Prince in 1998.
“Sometimes real life could be as entertaining as a fictional feature,” AL.com’s Matt Wake wrote. “Like the night Prince rented out the theater following the Purple Rain superstar’s 1998 concert at the Von Braun Center. Late that night, Prince’s tour bus pulled up behind the theater. Prince and his entourage filed into the Hollywood 18 via a backdoor, winding their way towards auditorium six.”
Prince didn’t actually stay for the show
Wake interviewed John Paul Gindhart, who worked at the theater from 1994 – 2020. He began as an usher and became a projectionist. He shared the Prince story with AL.com.
“Gindhart operated the projector for Prince’s entourage that night and recalls the film being the Halle Berry comedy B.A.P.S.,” Wake wrote. “But Prince only was in the theater for a few minutes before retreating to his tour bus.”
So, Prince really rented the theater to provide his crew a fun night off. Or, maybe Berry’s film didn’t hook him.
The Halle Berry movie that was a private show
By 1998, Halle Berry was still on the rise. She’d made her debut in the 1989 sitcom Living Dolls. It was a Who’s the Boss? spinoff in which Samantha Micelli (Alyssa Milano) lived with teen models in New York. It only lasted one season, but movies followed for Berry.
A trio of 1991 movies showed Berry’s range. Jungle Fever was an intense Spike Lee drama. Strictly Business was a comedy romp and The Last Boy Scout was an action spectacular in which Bruce Willis and Damon Wayans try to solve her murder. In 1992, Berry played the love interest to Eddie Murphy in the rom-com Boomerang.
By 1998 Berry was playing leads and supporting roles in all different genres, from dramas and thrillers to more action and comedy. B.A.P.S. was a comedy vehicle for Berry and Natalie Desselle Reid as “Black American Princesses” who try to snag a rich man (Martin Landau). The film opened on March 27 1997 so Gindhart either has the date or the movie wrong.
Berry would win an Oscar for her role in 2001’s Monster’s Ball. She starred in the blockbuster X-Men franchise and the Bond film Die Another Day. She’s still turning out hits like The Call, Kidnap and joining the likes of John Wick and Kingsman.
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