This town is dead.

O.K., that might be overstating it a bit, but after trekking up and down Main st. last night -- officially the first major party night -- something seemed a bit off.  In fact, it felt more like a Monday or Tuesday night at the festival after the traditional weekend crashers have split.  The energy was less hectic and, in fact, there were actually fewer events going on than previous years. 

Disturbingly for Party City businesses, numerous people I spoke to shared the same story of cab drivers telling them that business was down 30-40% (although city officials are claiming only 8%) and you can see it in the vehicle and foot traffic.  I can't remember ever making it to Main St. (where all the major parties, restaurants and b.s. swag suites are) so quickly on the first weekend.  Was this what it was like in...1994? 

Make no doubt about it, the economy is to blame.  When companies like Motorola are announcing 4,000 layoffs, it's understandable why they aren't shelling out mid-six figures to hold a late night networking bash.  A publicist told me one unnamed corporate client started E-mailing her from their swag suite that day because they were...bored.  On the first day of the fest?  Yikes.  And of course there is a strange irony in how well the movie business is doing at the moment. But back to the "fun"...

We started off at the Def Jam/"Push" premiere party at House of Hype and, for a moment, it seemed like old times.  Nas (has a song in "Tyson"), Robin Thicke (performing later this weekend) and Kelis (no clue) stoled through the tight VIP area and the expected "why are you here?" celebs such as Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Jordana Brewster (skin baby, fix that skin!) were strutting around.  And yes, the stars of the fantastic flick, Jay-Z and one of Def Jam's biggest artists, Ms. Mariah Carey, eventually showed up as well, but by then I'd been dragged by friends to...

The MySpace after hours party.  And this is the notable difference from only a year ago.  Perhaps the crowd got better at say, 3 or 4 AM, but by 1:30, the only notable attendee was Ashton Kutcher and they "said" he was there. I looked around and never spotted him (shoot, where are those happenin' and partying Fox Searchlight publicists?).  And while the DJ was spinning like it was a 2001 rave in Amsterdam and that last shot of champagne did the trick, it felt more like a winding down Tuesday night fete than any thing else.

There were two other major parties my gang and I skipped..  "Spring Breakdown" had a pre-Midnight screening party at The Village at the Yard that was said to be fun, but the locale was off the beaten path and inconvenient for those on downtown.  The Hollywood Life House, home of many dinner and movie premiere cocktail events this year, held a "7 Fresh Faces in Film" fete headlined by host...Virginia Madsen (soon to be heard as the voice of Hippolyta in the animated "Wonder Woman"!).  We were on the list for this one, but we ran into two colleagues coming out who warned us of the cheesy crowd and, well, that was that.

Oh, woe are us attendees.  I guess we'll just have to tragically enjoy the movies instead (or hope things get better by Sunday).