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Alaska thriller 'The Frozen Ground' will screen in Wasilla, but not Anchorage

Katie Medred
The Alaska-filmed thriller "The Frozen Ground" stars John Cusack and Nicolas Cage. It debuts in Alaska on Friday. In Wasilla. Brian Adams Photo

Friday is the official studio release day of the long-anticipated Alaska filmed serial killer-thriller "The Frozen Ground," starring Nicolas Cage, John Cusack and Vanessa Hudgens, and it's bound to be a big one for many Alaskans, considering that 700-plus locals worked on the project. However, despite the huge hometown involvement, the film will not be screened in Anchorage due to distribution limitations. But it will hit the Valley Cinema in Wasilla as well as the TV screens of OnDemand users across the state.

The Alaska Film Group will host an informal red-carpet event at Valley Cinema Friday night to acknowledge the work and long hours put in by local cast and crew. The event is open to the public.

"We wanted to do something," Alaska Film Group president Deborah Schildt said last week, "We're just having a hard time pinning things down right now."

Schildt had attempted to arrange a cast-and-crew-only event at the Bear Tooth on Thursday, the day before the premier, but was told no by the distributor at the last minute. She had to scratch the event and regroup.

"Now it looks like we're holding a public red-carpet event at the Valley Cinema for the 6:45 p.m. showing on Friday," Schildt confirmed Thursday. "(We'll gather) in theater six (a 21-and-over-only theater) because we want to be able to be able to raise a glass and honor the local cast and crew who worked on this film."

Many of the Alaskans who had parts in the film plan on attending the event. "Of the Alaska cast -- about 30 people total -- I'd guess 20 of them will be there." Schildt said. "We'll have the red carpet, of course, and a special area where they can sit and people can get autographs."

The event is going to be "reasonably casual," Schildt said, and Robert Forgit, the KTUU weatherman and the film's most prominent Alaska cast member, will speak right before the film begins. "If you plan on attending, you better get your tickets now," she added.

The Valley Cinema will host two screenings at 6:45 p.m. on Friday night -- one in theater six, capacity 225, and the other in theater eight, capacity 230. As of Thursday night, Valley Cinema had only sold about 120 tickets for the 6:45 p.m. screenings.

"It's not as many as I was expecting," Valley Cinema floor manager Gordon Mangus admitted. "Not sure if it's a last-second deal or what, and we don't quite know what to expect because if all of Anchorage was to turn out in full force, we could have sold the whole thing out by now."

But Mangus isn't worried about the evening getting crazy. "We are as prepared as we always are," Mangus said, "the night Harry Potter premiered, we had over 1,000 people show up and it went fine, plus Fridays are always crowded anyway. It's not going to be worse. We've dealt with crowds, big crowds."

"The Frozen Ground" opened in London on July 17 to mixed reviews. Tom Huddleston of Time Out recently wrote, "This is an unambitious, old-school thriller, nothing more and nothing less." However, Josh Winning of Total Films praised the film for its "handsomely lensed" images and tense moments between Cage and Cusack.

Most recently, New York Times film writer Stephen Holden called it "at least watchable, unlike recent debacles starring Mr. Cage." Harsh, but possibly true. 

Regardless of how compelling (or dull) the movie ends up being, Alaskans can enjoy the novelty of seeing familiar scenery, favorite places and even friends on the silver screen for the first time since 2011's "Big Miracle," I mean -- ahem -- "Everybody Loves Whales." That's at least worth the price of admission, right?

Can't make it to the Friday shindig, but still want to see the flick on the big screen? Check out all the Valley Cinema show times for the next week here. Or, if you don't mind waiting, you can pick up a copy of the film on Oct. 1 when it's released on DVD and BluRay.

Contact Katie Medred at katie(at)alaskadispatch.com