Early peek at Will Smith film

By Todd Cohen

Theaters in Greensboro or High Point, and in Raleigh, will be among roughly 30 throughout the U.S. that will host early screenings of “The Pursuit of Happyness,” a Sony Pictures movie starring Will Smith and based on the true story of a homeless man.

Sites for the screenings, which are scheduled for the first week of December, were selected because they are major media markets in which community groups are working together to develop 10-year plans to end chronic homelessness.

Sony Pictures and Columbia Pictures picked the sites with input from Smith and Philip Mangano, executive director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, who is spearheading development of the homelessness plans.

Helping to coordinate development of Guilford County’s plan, expected to be completed by the end of the year, are the United Ways in Greensboro and High Point.

The screening is “another way to communicate with individuals about the issue and about how our community is responding to it,” says Bobby Smith, president of United Way of Greater High Point.

Neil Belenky, president of United Way of Greater Greensboro, says the screening will be “bringing attention to the plight of the homeless, which has been a below-the-surface issue, and really humanizing the issue.”

Because the plan will be “asking the community to rethink its priorities and treat the issue of homelessness as a community-wide problem, not just the problem of a few isolated individuals,” Belenky says, “we need to get the public’s attention,” an effort the movie screening will help.

The venue that will host the Guilford County screening will be determined through talks involving Sony Pictures and Columbia Pictures and local theaters and United Ways.

The movie is based on a book of the same name by Chris Gardner, whose journey took him from homelessness on the streets of inner-city Milwaukee to prominence on Wall Street.

“This film has the promise of dispelling lingering myths and stereotypes about the homeless,” Mangano says. “When people see this film, it will change their perception of what homeless people are capable of.”

For information about Guilford County’s homelessness plan, click here. For information about Wake County’s homelessness plan, click here.

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