The stars shone in New York City last night as the second Tribeca Film Festival (search) kicked off with a glamorous red-carpet premiere.
Following a procession along Greenwich Street with Mayor Bloomberg, festival founder Robert De Niro (search) and U2 vocalist Bono, stars Renee Zellweger (search) and Ewan McGregor attended the debut of their romantic comedy, Down With Love, at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center on Chambers Street.
The premiere was followed by a gala white-tie bash at the Winter Garden with the film's other stars and an array of celebrities.
"I'm extremely happy with the way everything is going," De Niro told reporters earlier in the day at the Embassy Suites hotel. "It's just going to get better every year. New York needs something like this."
De Niro and Jane Rosenthal, his film producing partner, founded the festival last year to give a boost to downtown businesses devastated in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.
Last year's inaugural festival drew more than 150,000 people downtown and contributed an estimated $10 million to the area's economy, including $90,000 for restaurant meals, festival officials said.
Rosenthal's husband, businessman Craig Hatkoff, said ticket sales were running well ahead of this point last year: 49,000 vs. 19,000 in 2001.
Advance tickets have sold out for many films, including Saturday's premiere of the comedy, The In-Laws, with Michael Douglas and Albert Brooks, and The Italian Job, a Mark Wahlberg-Edward Norton heist thriller that concludes the festival Sunday night.
The festival will also include panel discussions with the likes of Al Pacino and Nathan Lane; free outdoor showings of When Harry Met Sally, Diner and Grease; an MTV concert with Norah Jones and the Roots, and a family street festival Saturday and Sunday.
More than 200 features from 45 countries will make their debuts at the festival, which is being held at half a dozen downtown venues including the United Artists megaplex in Battery Park City.
"Our film slate has gone from credible to world class," said Rosenthal, who noted that the first festival was put together in just four months.
De Niro was asked whether he hoped the Tribeca Festival would some day rival the Cannes and Sundance festivals.
"I don't like to make any comparisons," he said. "We're doing our own thing, not competing with anybody."