Midtown Raleigh News

January 21, 2014

Get ready for Raleighwood Academy Awards Gala

Celebrity look-alike contest is part of the fun

It’s cyclical, like winter. And depending on your chances, just as cold. The Academy Awards are coming up, and if you’re a movie fan, a celebrity trash talker, a fashion voyeur, or just bored, then you’ll be tuning in March 2.

Or, if you’re in the mood for a pseudo red-carpet experience, you can drive over to Raleighwood movie theater at 6609 Falls of Neuse Road in North Raleigh and watch it with a crowd of fake stars and characters.

Every year since 2007, and sporadically before, Raleighwood has hosted an Academy Awards viewing where they invite celebrity look-alikes, costumed creatures, characters and movie fans to come watch the program live.

“You can’t find anything better for a movie theater than the Academy Awards,” said Jean Best. She handles promotions for the theater, and came up with the idea when she was looking for a way to fill Raleighwood on what would typically be a slow night. “We had a lady come as the Black Swan. We had a Zach Galifianakis from the Hangover with a baby in front.”

You get the picture. It’s fun. And weird.

Blanche Dean and her husband Larry go every year. Blanche has a natural resemblance to actress Jamie Lee Curtis, so she came as the starlet.

“Actually, my wife says that Jamie Lee Curtis looks like her,” Larry said. “I unfortunately, don’t resemble anybody as well as my wife does.”

That didn’t stop him from coming last year as Elvis. Or an Elvis Impersonator. It’s fitting: his mom went to high school with Elvis in Memphis, Tenn.

“We just try to help them make it a good time for everybody,” he said.

Best starts early, soliciting requests from look-alikes and people with costumes. She invites the most impressive to sit in the VIP section, and they walk a red carpet and greet ordinary theater-goers, just like at the Academy Awards.

You may see characters from Star Wars, Harry Potter or even Ghostbusters, Best said.

Anthony Acree came dressed as Darth Vader last year. It wasn’t any simple costume either. He spent two years putting the individual pieces together.

"Some of the stuff I had a friend from church tailor it for me,” he said. “Other pieces, I would buy pieces off eBay and modify it to movie quality."

He’s not sure if the Sith Lord is going to make a repeat appearance, though.

"I don't have another costume as of yet, but, yeah, I might just go as myself,” he said. “Unless I'm requested, and then I'll go as Darth Vader."

The Raleighwood Academy Awards event is free to the public, and there’ll be plenty to do beyond just watching. You can walk the red carpet and meet the “celebrities,” of course. Or you can sip wine at a tasting in the lobby, play trivia, rate guests’ outfits or just hang out.

“If you’re a movie fan, that’s the night you want to celebrate with other movie fans,” Best said.

Larry said he won’t be coming as Elvis again this year. He will be in costume, though he only hinted at what that might be.

“Some people say I resemble a jolly fat guy,” he said.

We’ll leave it at that.

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