After the sun sets on another perfect Hawaiian day, thousands of people in beach chairs and on blankets dig their toes into the sand of one of the world's most famous beaches as a 30-foot movie screen jumps to life.
Welcome to network television's latest screening room.
Sixteen years after "Magnum P.I.'s" red Ferrari drove into the sunset, and after a long dry spell, Hawaii has three network TV series in production. All premiered on Waikiki Beach, which also has shown movies for several years.
Damon Lindelof, co-creator of ABC's "Lost," thought it would be a good idea to show the pilot on the Waikiki screen after first noticing it during a drive to his hotel in March. The network had just begun filming the castaway drama whose cast includes Matthew Fox ("Party of Five") and Dominic Monaghan ("The Lord of the Rings").
"Here we are six months later screening our pilot," Lindelof said as more than 10,000 people gathered Saturday night for a first look at "Lost" -- far more than the typical draw for the free movies at the city-sponsored "Sunset on the Beach" series.
The crowd repeated on Sunday night for the premiere of NBC's police drama "Hawaii," which makes its network debut tomorrow. The 90-minute "Lost" pilot airs three weeks later in two parts, on Sept. 22 and 29.
The city came up with beach movies as a way to attract local residents to the Waikiki tourist district on weekends after the 2001 terrorist attacks took a toll on visitor arrivals. The shows draw between 5,000 and 7,500 people a night, according to Malcolm Tom, the city's deputy managing director.
Fox Television was the first to take advantage of the screen, the sand, the sunset and the built-in audience when it premiered its Hawaii-based hotel drama, "North Shore," on the beach in June.
Soon after that, ABC and NBC got permission to show their pilots on the beach, Tom said.
Cast members of "North Shore" appeared onstage before the screening of their pilot.
Not to be outdone, ABC had its 14 cast members arrive an hour and a half before the screening to greet fans before mingling at a reception under a large banyan tree behind the screen as the sun set over the Pacific.
NBC pulled off a flashier entrance Sunday night for the "Hawaii" cast, which includes Michael Biehn ("Terminator 2"), Sharif Atkins ("ER"), Ivan Sergei ("Crossing Jordan") and Eric Balfour ("Six Feet Under"). The actors arrived in two of the show's police cars and the red Cadillac convertible driven on the show by Biehn's character, Detective Sean Harrison, escorted by motorcycle cops with lights flashing.
Stepping onto a sand-covered red carpet surrounded by a crowd, the actors received orchid leis before making their way down the beach, stopping to meet with fans and beachgoers still wet from the ocean.