Commanding the foot of the red carpet, Andrew Saffir greets his guests the only way he knows how, with that warm and endearing smile of his, and a hint of excitement peeking through the lenses of his wire eyeglasses. There to personally welcome each arrival—announced by the unmistakable cloud of flickering flashbulbs—he only occasionally jumps onto the carpet to get in a few shots with his friends.
Flashing his trademark smile, Saffir is posing with the actors, editors, directors, producers, supermodels and socialites who consistently turn up at the screenings and after parties hosted by Saffir and the company he founded, the Cinema Society.
The occasion is a screening of the gritty, NC-17-rated dark comedy Killer Joe and the guest list is as star-studded as it is distinct. Actors mingle with directors and designers, editors hover at the bar with models while socialites laugh with photographers. Matthew McConaughey, Gina Gershon, John Stamos, Ethan Cohen, Stefano Tonchi, Terry Richardson and Nicky Hilton have all turned up at the cozy screening room of the Tribeca Grand Hotel for Willliam Friedkin’s flick about a family’s plot to have their mother murdered to cash in on her life insurance. But star-studded crowds are something Saffir is used to. In fact, standing in front of the audience to introduce the film, Saffir is as calm and collected as a host throwing an intimate dinner party for friends in his own home.
Saffir fell into the movie business somewhat fortuitously. When a friend asked the former fashion executive to help throw the premiere of Proof in 2005, Saffir made a few calls, built a mini state-of-the-art theatre inside a Richard Meier building on Charles Street, and compiled an intimate guest list of select actors, press and New York notables. The night of the premiere, Saffir hosted the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow, Lauren Bacall, Jay-Z, Beyoncé and Iman, and introduced Manhattan to what is now known as the Cinema Society.
At a time when studios were footing the large bill for extravagant premieres, the Cinema Society offered a more targeted approach at creating buzz. “I wanted to do something smaller and more intimate,” says Saffir, “to create an unusual and eclectic salon for film that would make for a more dynamic and fun evening.” A recent outdoor screening of Robot and Frank held at a private residence in East Hampton involved cocktails and dinner around the pool, followed by a bonfire and s’mores on the beach where Susan Sarandon, John Slattery, Liv Tyler and Zosia Mamet all hung out around haystacks.
But lavish events aren’t something Saffir shies away from either; he’s also hosted the New York premieres of blockbusters like The Hunger Games and the Twilight trilogy.
If you’re thinking he makes this sound too easy, you’d be right. It’s necessary to point out that Saffir might just be one of the most hard-working people in the city. He fit this interview in his schedule while on vacation in Positano with his boyfriend of 15 years, Daniel Benedict. The first thing Saffir mentions is the hotel he is staying at, which used to belong to the famed Italian film director Franco Zeffirelli (the man behind the 1968 version of Romeo and Juliet, among other classics). The fact that Saffir lives and breathes film, even while on vacation, plays an obvious role in helping him turn his invitations into one of the most coveted in Manhattan. “I’ve always had a yen for film, it’s what I studied in school,” says Saffir who attended the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU before he began working as a marketing executive at Ralph Lauren—a job that proved lucrative for Saffir when he later looked to fashion brands to sponsor his screenings. “Films, actors and designers have such a strong relationship; so many designers are inspired by film,” says Saffir. Dior put its name on the Cinema Society’s first invitation for Proof and it wasn’t long before brands like Gucci, Calvin Klein, Giorgio Armani, Brooks Brothers and DKNY followed, along with other, more diverse brands, like American Express, Volvo, DeLeón Tequila and RentTheRunway.com.