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Photo Flash: MILK Premiere at San Francisco's Castro Theatre

Academy Award-nominated director Gus Van Sant's Milk, starring Academy Award winner Sean Penn as gay rights icon Harvey Milk, had its world premiere at San Francisco's historic Castro Theatre (at 429 Castro Street) tonight. The evening benefited multiple charities supporting LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) youth. Dinner and dancing followed at City Hall.

The city's mayor, Gavin Newsom, and his wife Jennifer Siebel Newsom were honorary co-chairpersons of the event. All proceeds will benefit the Hetrick-Martin Institute, home of the Harvey Milk High School, in New York City; Larkin Street Youth Services, in San Francisco; The Point Foundation, the national scholarship-granting organization; and San Francisco's LGBT Community Center.

CEO of Focus Features James Schamus commented "Tonight, as San Francisco remembers one of its heroes, we also honor his intention to give hope to new generations who aspire to make a difference in the world."

In addition to Mayor Newsom and his wife, Mr. Van Sant, and Mr. Penn and Mrs. Robin Wright Penn, attendees included Milk stars Emile Hirsch, Josh Brolin, Diego Luna, Alison Pill, and James Franco; Joseph Cross, Stephen Spinella, Kelvin Yu, Brandon Boyce; Milk screenwriter and executive producer Dustin Lance Black; Milk producers Dan Jinks and Bruce CohenMilk executive producer Michael London; Harvey Milk's friends and colleagues Cleve Jones, Anne Kronenberg, Danny Nicoletta, and Frank Robinson; Focus Features CEO James Schamus and president Andrew Karpen;  Diane Lane; Casey Affleck; T.R. Knight; Lars Ulrich and Connie Nielsen; Diane Baker; Peter Coyote; David LaChapelle; Chris Columbus; Armistead Maupin; Stuart Milk; James Hormel, The Honorable Bevan Dufty, Senator Barbara Boxer, Assemblyman Mark Leno, Treasurer José Cisneros, and Supervisor Tom Ammiano; Oregon Gov. Ted  Kulongoski; Universal Studios president and COO Ron Meyer; Universal Pictures chairman Marc Shmuger and co-chairman David Linde; Universal Pictures vice chairman and Universal Studios EVP Rick Finkelstein; Levi's Strauss America president Robert Hanson, Levi's Strauss & Co. president and CEO John Anderson, Levi's Brand Marketing vice president Robert Cameron; and close to 1400 San Franciscans.

The benefit event was held in the city where Harvey Milk (1930-1978) lived, loved, and changed the very nature of what it means to be a fighter for human rights. Milk, a biographical drama, was filmed entirely on location in San Francisco earlier this year, including at the Castro movie house itself.

Mr. Milk was an activist and politician, and the first openly gay man to be elected to major public office in America; in 1977, he was voted to the city supervisors' board of San Francisco, representing the Castro District.

From an original screenplay by Dustin Lance Black, Milk is produced by Dan Jinks and Bruce Cohen, the Academy Award-winning producers of American Beauty, through The Jinks/Cohen Company. Groundswell Productions and Focus Features co-financed Milk, which is a Focus Features presentation in association with Axon Films of a Groundswell production and a Jinks/Cohen Company production. Executive producers of Milk are Groundswell CEO Michael London (an Academy Award nominee for Sideways), Mr. Black, Groundswell's Bruna Papandrea, Barbara Hall, and William Horberg.

Milk will be distributed worldwide by Focus; the film's domestic theatrical run commences on Wednesday, November 26th in select cities (including New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco) before expanding in December.

Groundswell Productions is an independent financing and production company formed by Michael London in February 2006 with a mission to create a thriving home for filmmakers with singular voices that reach broad audiences. The company's slate mixes films from established directors and emerging talent alongside comedies and genre films with an original sensibility. Since its inception, Groundswell has produced writer/director Tom McCarthy's The Visitor (a co-production with Participant Productions), starring Richard Jenkins and Hiam Abbass; Appaloosa, directed by Ed Harris, who starred in the film opposite Viggo Mortensen and Renée Zellweger; Noam Murro's Smart People, starring Dennis Quaid, Thomas Haden Church, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Ellen Page; Rawson Marshall Thurber's The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, based on the Michael Chabon novel and starring Sienna Miller, Peter Sarsgaard, and Jon Foster; Todd Louiso's The Marc Pease Experience (co-financed by Paramount Vantage), starring Jason Schwartzman, Anna Kendrick, and Ben Stiller; Andrew Jarecki's All Good Things, starring Ryan Gosling, Kirsten Dunst, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, and Frank Langella; and (co-financed with Participant Productions and Warner Bros.) Steven Soderbergh's The Informant, starring Matt Damon.

Focus Features ( exists to produce, acquire and distribute original and daring films that challenge the mainstream to embrace and enjoy voices and visions from around the world that deliver global commercial success.

In addition to Milk, current and upcoming Focus Features releases include Joel and Ethan Coen's hit comedy thriller Burn After Reading, starring George Clooney, Frances McDormand, John Malkovich, Tilda Swinton, Richard Jenkins, and Brad Pitt; Henry

Selick's 3-D stop-motion animated feature Coraline, starring Dakota Fanning and Teri Hatcher; Shane Acker's animated fantasy epic 9, starring Elijah Wood and Jennifer Connelly; Cary Fukunaga's immigrant thriller Sin Nombre; writer/director Jim Jarmusch's new film, tentatively titled The Limits of Control, starring Isaach De Bankolé; a contemporary comedy directed by Academy Award winner Sam Mendes and starring John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph; Joel and Ethan Coen's A Serious Man; and Taking Woodstock, the new film from Academy Award-winning director Ang Lee.

Focus Features is part of NBC Universal, one of the world's leading media and entertainment companies in the development, production, and marketing of entertainment, news, and information to a global audience. Formed in May 2004 through the combining of NBC and Vivendi Universal Entertainment, NBC Universal owns and operates a valuable portfolio of news and entertainment networks, a premier motion picture company, significant television production operations, a leading television stations group, and world-renowned theme parks. NBC Universal is 80% owned by General Electric and 20% owned by Vivendi.

Atmosphere outside the Castro Theatre for the premiere of MILK

James Franco

Diane Lane and Josh Brolin

Robin Wright Penn and Sean Penn

Emile Hirsch, Alison Pill, Gus Van Sant, Sean Penn and Diego Luna

Andrew Karpen, Jennifer Newsom, Gavin Newsom (Mayor of San Francisco) and James Schamus

Photos by Kevin Winter/Getty Images

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