East Tennessee-born country star Kenny Chesney walked the red carpet, signed autographs and welcomed a crowd of about 1,000 to the premiere of his new concert film, “Kenny Chesney: Summer in 3D,” on Wednesday evening at the Regal Cinemas Pinnacle Stadium 18 in Turkey Creek.
“This is the first time anybody outside of myself and the people who made it have seen this film,” said Chesney from a stage in the expansive Pinnacle lobby before the crowd went inside theaters to view the film.
Sponsorships and ticket sales for the event raised more than $130,000 for Variety — The Children’s Charity of Eastern Tennessee, the local chapter of which was founded by the Knoxville-based Regal Entertainment Group.
The crowd began arriving more than two hours before Chesney was scheduled to appear at the theater complex. Cheryl Miller and Brittany England, both of Kingston, arrived at 5 p.m. and were hard-pressed to give a specific thing they liked about Chesney.
“Gosh, what’s not to like?” said Miller.
Miller said she would like to get a kiss from the star when he arrived, but she’d settle for a photo.
Several fans, including Lynn and Cary Francis of Knoxville, had seen Chesney at his Neyland Stadium concert in 2003.
“I like that he’s laid back, like us,” Cary said. “He still seems like an average person.”
Inside Pinnacle, guests ate barbecued pork, beans and slaw furnished by Texas Roadhouse, along with beer, wine and soft drinks while the Chillbillies performed on a stage. It was a more comfortable environment than Knoxville’s Nicole Greene had experienced when she spent the night in line at the Pinnacle on March 12, waiting for tickets to go on sale.
“It was cold,” she said.
“She loves Kenny and she stayed all night, and if he signs her back she’s getting it tattooed on!” said Athena Lane of Knoxville.
Greene admitted her adoration, but said she was not getting a tattoo.
Marcia Hard traveled from Evansville, Ind., for the event.
“I’ve been to 19 of his concerts!” she said.
A few fans who hadn’t been able to get tickets waited behind a barricade.
University of Tennessee students Sara Mitchell, Katherine Parker and Ali Martin said they didn’t know about the event until tickets were sold out.
“I’d love to have a picture with him,” said Mitchell. “I’d tell him I’m a Young Life volunteer at Gibbs High School, the high school that he graduated from.”
Dena Pinsker, executive director of the charity, said the organization was “thrilled” when Sony Pictures asked the group if they’d like to present the premiere. The group’s history of premieres includes Jessica Simpson and Johnny Knoxville appearing for “The Dukes of Hazzard,” The Rock appearing for “Walking Tall,” Jessica Alba and Dane Cook appearing for “Good Luck Chuck” and Taylor Lautner and Kristen Stewart appearing for an advance showing of “The Twilight Saga: New Moon” in November 2009.
“We’re really beginning to enjoy doing these, and we hope to keep doing red carpet events in Knoxville,” said Pinsker.
She said the organization was currently looking at the fall film release schedule for another event late in the year.
Chesney, for his part, seemed happy with the event.
Just before the screening Chesney told the crowd: “Growing up here allowed me to dream really big dreams … and this is the first time I’ve been able to show you what you guys helped create.”
Wayne Bledsoe may be reached at 865-342-6444.
© 2010, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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