The Ventura Film Festival presented the 50th Anniversary of West Side Story and lifetime achievement awards to the cast of West Side Story: George Chakiris, Russ Tamblyn, Robert Banas, Maria Henley, and Gina Trikonis on July 9, 2011 at the Ventura Theater.
The Ventura Film Festival had to special order 500 more seats for its 2011 Ventura Film Festival Opening Night, Red Carpet Event on July 9, 2011 featuring Academy Award and Golden Globe winner George Chakiris and Academy Award nominee and Golden Globe winner Russ Tamblyn and the cast of the original West Side Story musical.
It would have been standing room only as event organizers realized that the theater didn’t have enough seats to meet demand and had to special order more seats the night before hundreds of award winning filmmakers, actors/actresses, directors, producers, industry executives, and writers from across the US and over 25 countries were to arrive in Ventura, California, which is a small beach town about 60 miles from Hollywood, for the 2011 Ventura Film Festival.
The VFF opening night included a sold out tribute dinner to the cast of West Side Story at the Ventura Beach Marriott with live music by Cella and Lexi Ulmer and a poster signing ceremony, 8 limousines, red carpet, awards to past VFF filmmakers and writers and the 50th Anniversary Celebration of West Side Story which is widely considered to be the number one musical of all time.
Local filmmakers such as Dylan O’Neil, Monica Huntington, Kenny Luper, David Parsa, and Jim Martin were honored with awards and presented world premieres of their films.
The highlight of the night was the excited crowd of George Chakiris and West Side Story fans who mobbed their favorite movie stars, blocking entrance to the theater and posed for pictures and interviews, shed tears, and relived stories of past memories. The demand from the fans for autographs and pictures with Academy Award winner George Chakiris, Golden Globe winner Russ Tamblyn and the rest of the West Side Story was so much that the schedule was set back 45 minutes to accommodate delays caused by the fans.
The 50th Anniversary of West Side Story film screening went off without a hitch and the crowd of hundreds applauded during and after the film which was being shown in the Ventura Theater, which is the same placed where the Academy Award winning film debuted in 1961.
The West Side Story cast in attendance was George Chakiris, Russ Tamblyn, Robert Banas, Maria Henley, and Gina Trikonis.
Academy Award and Golden Globe winner George Chakiris and Academy Award nominee and Golden Globe winner Russ Tamblyn and the cast of the original West Side Story musical received their awards, gifts, and flowers and then escaped into the night, protected by the privacy of their black, stretch limousine as fans continued to cling to them for more and more autographs and attention.