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It’s about one o’clock in the afternoon here at my home in northern Illinois. The spring weather is late-breaking, but with it being a sunny and clear 63° outside, I’ve got the kitchen windows open as I sip my early afternoon coffee… from a mug shaped like Thanos’ Infinity Gauntlet.  My life continues to take me to interesting places, and they’re often very quick trips that are packed with activities and excitement, usually ending with a red eye flight back to Chicago and back to reality. On Monday night, I walked the Purple Carpet at the World Premiere of Marvel Studios’ Avengers: Infinity War… sat in the front row of the Dolby Theatre in a seat once occupied by Leonardo DiCaprio… and sipped a martini as an invited guest at the official after party. 

I’ve had the good fortune of attending a few premieres in the past, but nothing compares to the scale and scope of what the folks from Disney & Marvel (who paid all of my expenses – disclosure and all) put together for this film. I’m told that the only thing remotely close to it was the 2015 premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and as with that film, Infinity War occupied three theaters (the Dolby, El Capitan and Chinese) with a carpet that took up three city blocks.

James Zahn (The Rock Father) at the Global Premiere for Marvel Studios' Avengers: Infinity War

Pictured: James Zahn (The Rock Father™) at the Global Premiere for Marvel Studios’ Avengers: Infinity War.
Marvel’s Black Panther High Top Sneakers provided courtesy of ThinkGeek.

As many of you know, I work with The Walt Disney Company and their various divisions on projects and promotional campaigns on a frequent basis, and this year Avengers: Infinity War is one of those – the #InfinityWarEvent being the crowning achievement. It’s easy to look at this premiere as a celebration of a massive film, but for all of those involved, this was something more. It was a celebration of the first ten years of Marvel Studios, and they went bigger to involve as many supporters as possible. So many people work on a film or are connected to it in some way… and that filters out to press and digital content creators. Over 4,000 people viewed the film together in those three theaters, experiencing it with the cast and crew as they shared in the final result for the very first time. As someone said while waiting in the massive security line, “everyone here tonight is important.” Marvel Studios is a team effort, and that team has extended family in many places, all of whom contribute in some way to its success.

Pictured: James Zahn (The Rock Father™) at the Global Premiere for Marvel Studios' Avengers: Infinity War.

Walking down Hollywood Blvd. beneath the cover of a glass roof, the premiere audience was led on a journey through Marvel history as artifacts from the eighteen previous films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe were on display for all to see.  While the highlights were many, one of my personal favorites was one of the screen-used Formula 1-inspired cars from Iron Man 2. I wear a Stark Racing t-shirt on frequent occasion, but I never expected to come across Tony’s car in the middle of a premiere carpet. Along with Thanos’ Infinity Gauntlet worn by Josh Brolin in Infinity War, it was a fine tribute to the skilled men and women who have made these films possible, from physical to digital creations. 

Avengers: Infinity War Premiere

Inside, we took our seats. Mine was Orchestra Center, Row A, Seat 1. The activity across the front row was a yearbook of players from within the MCU passing by to find their seats Jon Favreau… Sean Gunn… and more. Soon, Samuel L. Jackson’s voice echoed through darkness as the screen lit up with visions of the past ten years. As the actors behind the Avengers took their place on stage flanked by Marvel Studios’ President Kevin Feige, Directors Anthony and Joseph Russo and others who produced the film, the audience quieted their applause as Robert Downey Jr. gave a heartfelt speech that honored the team for what they’ve accomplished both on-screen and off. As he noted, being in a film like this and becoming a super hero can make you a massive star… “but it’s meaningless unless you aspire to do more” for others.

Avengers Infinity War Premiere

After the film, my group headed up to the official after party – a chance to meet and mingle with much of the cast and other guests (see photos on my Instagram). It was a unique experience in that Marvel Studios premiere parties have never before been open to those outside the immediate family. But as Infinity War is a bigger film, the celebration was crafted to reflect that – and it may be the only time that this happens. As I said when I revealed my involvement in all of this, I’m still just a kid in Illinois that loves a great story from Marvel. The only difference is that somehow I’m now just extraordinarily lucky to be on the fringes of it all.

James Zahn - Captain America 1981

Marvel Studios’ Avengers: Infinity War  stars Robert Downey Jr., as Tony Stark/Iron Man, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/The Hulk, Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America, Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow, Don Cheadle as Colonel James Rhodes/War Machine, Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange, Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man, Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa/Black Panther, Zoe Saldana as Gamora, Karen Gillan as Nebula, Tom Hiddleston as Loki, Paul Bettany as Vision, Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch, Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson/Falcon, Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier, Idris Elba as Heimdall, Danai Gurira as Okoye, Benedict Wong as Wong, Pom Klementieff as Mantis, Dave Bautista as Drax, featuring Vin Diesel as Groot, Bradley Cooper as Rocket, with Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts, with Benicio Del Toro as The Collector, with Josh Brolin as Thanos, and Chris Pratt as Peter Quill/Star-Lord. Rated PG-13

See Avengers: Infinity War in theaters starting tonight. Read my review here | Enter to win a Fandango Gift Card here

Top Photo and interior theater photos courtesy of Marvel Studios.

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