'Dolphin Tale' junket brings media invasion to Clearwater
TAMPA - Entertainment media from throughout the world are coming to Clearwater this week to meet the human and animal stars of "Dolphin Tale," a family film about Winter, the star attraction at Clearwater Marine Aquarium. The 3-D feature film, about a young, injured bottlenose dolphin that gets a prosthetic tail, stars Harrick Connick Jr., Ashley Judd and Morgan Freeman. "Dolphin Tale" opens in theaters Sept. 23. And while there will be a premiere in Hollywood, the junket for the film is being held at the Aquarium and the Clearwater Beach Hyatt Regency this week. More than 150 print, television and online reporters are coming to interview Freeman and Connick, two child stars of the film Nathan Gamble and Cozi Zuehlsdorff, the film's director Charles Martin Smith and the writers Karen Janszen and Noam Dromi. (Ashley Judd won't be available because she is Prague filming a 10-episdoe ABC drama series "Missing")."The media will get to meet Winter, the real star of the film," says David Yates, CEO of the aquarium. "Usually, movie junkets are held in Hollywood but because Winter couldn't travel there the media are coming here." Clearwater city officials are hoping the film sparks a boom in tourism. To welcome the media, a 75-ton sand sculpture is being carved near Pier 60 in Clearwater Beach by a professional sand-sculpting company. The sculpture features Clearwater attractions and events, including, the aquarium and the Clearwater Jazz Holiday. Yates says the film hasn't opened and it already has created worldwide interest in Winter.To generate word-of-mouth buzz about the movie, Warner Bros. held some advance screenings this past weekend at theaters in Tampa, Orlando, Jacksonville and Miami. A special Clearwater premiere, featuring supporting local cast members and possibly some of the stars, will be held Sept. 21 at Ruth Eckerd Hall.