By Emily Heil

Amid preparations for the White House Correspondents’ Dinner — the manicure-appointment-setting, the dusting-off of tuxes — many regular attendees of the annual event arrived Thursday night at the E Street Cinema for a little scolding about how bad they really should feel about all that pomp.

At the screening of the documentary “Nerd Prom,” a critical look at the overblown event by former Politico reporter Patrick Gavin, many in the crowd will, no doubt, be among those packing into the Washington Hilton later this month. Among those lining up at the screening for popcorn with a side of cold water: Former WHCA president Steve Thomma, longtime ABC Radio correspondent Ann Compton, Republican consultant Juleanna Glover, White House reporter Connie Lawn, and top RNC spokesman Sean Spicer.

But how guilty will they feel on Washington’s big night? On a scale of not-a-fig to racked-with-shame, probably closer to the former. Gavin’s documentary, his first attempt at film-making, delivered oft-heard condemnations of the overblown, celebrity-packed flesh-pressing marathon (it’s too commercialized, doesn’t raise enough for charity, there’s too much emphasis on the stars and not enough on the actual correspondents — oh, and the crowd is ill-behaved).

Which probably wasn’t going to keep anyone in this town away — or up at night, really.

In remarks after the movie showing, Gavin said he began the project imagining a mere portrait of the dinner, but wound up making a more critical picture than he initially expected. Still, he said, it’s “a love letter to White House correspondents.”

They’ll take that. The audience did get a party-crashing tip they could use, too, courtesy of radio talk show host Bill Press, who conducted the evening’s Q&A. Press described arriving one year at the New Yorker after-party, one of the most exclusive events surrounding the dinner. He was on the guest list; his friend was not — and his wife was at home. “I said, ‘that’s my husband,’” Press said. “I figured the New Yorker would not refuse.”

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