Plenty of star power was in attendance at the gala screening of Dolphin Tale in Clearwater Wednesday night.
Unfortunately, it wasn't enough to prevent an interruption of the movie 40 minutes into the showing that was caused by a power outage at Ruth Eckerd Hall, where the screening took place.
A capacity crowd of 2,180 moviegoers, most of whom paid $99 per ticket to be among the first to see the movie, had to wait patiently as the minutes ticked by and no word came about what the problem was.
Finally, aquarium CEO and president David Yates appeared on stage with a megaphone that was barely audible, announced the outage and reported that Florida Progress (a sponsor he had thanked earlier) was on the case.
About 25 minutes later, the 50-foot screen was once again filled with scenes that depicted the inspirational story of Winter the dolphin and the quest to get her a prosthetic. The rest of the showing went off without a hitch, and there was warm applause at the end when actual scenes of Winter's rescue and life at the aquarium flashed on the screen.
Earlier in the evening, the hall had been abuzz as movie co-stars Nathan Gamble and Cozi Zuehlsdorff walked the red carpet with other members of the production team and cast, including director Charles Martin Smith. While many of the movie's cast were recognizable to the crowd, there were moments when onlookers scratched their heads and wondered aloud about whom they were viewing. In some cases, it was the producer (Andrew Kosove, who spoke appreciatively to the crowd before the movie); in others, it was the real-life people who are involved in Winter's life (prosthetic makers Kevin Carroll, a vice president for Hanger Prosthetics and Orthotics Inc., and Hanger's Sarasota designer, Dan Strzempka).
As the crowd, which was mostly dressed in suits and soiree attire, settled in for the movie, Yates made sure to recognize and thank everyone from local government officials to the staff and volunteers at the aquarium to the sponsors for the screening, which was a benefit for the Clearwater Marine Aquarium and the Challenged Athletes Foundation.
Just before the showing, musical guest Suite Caroline, a local teen who now lives in Nashville, was joined on stage by Zuehlsdorff for a rendition of Winter, a song that she had written after she read a story about the dolphin in the St. Petersburg Times. The two later emerged again during the power outage to gamely sing Train's Soul Sister through a megaphone to entertain the restive crowd.
When the movie finally began showing shortly after 7 p.m., the eager crowd applauded every name that flashed on the screen in the opening credits, including a co-producing one for Yates. But the loudest applause came just minutes into the movie when members of the audience who work at the aquarium recognized one of their staff in a scene.