Thursday, October 20, 2011

10-20-11: An Incurable Addiction

I've been a professed movie fan for most of life. I readily admit I haven't seen ALL the films that a movie fan is suppose to have seen, I'm working on it, but ask anyone and they can tell you I have seen a lot. In fact, I recall back in July of 2005 I watched over forty films in the theatre. That's over forty films in 28 days. The only days I wasn't in a movie theatre were July 4th and the two days I was reading "Half-Blood Prince". The films were a mix of first-run, free preview screenings and repertoire cinema. From "Casablanca" to "Revenge of the Sith," from "Sunset Boulevard" to "Charlie and Chocolate Factory," from "Double Indemnity" to "The Devil's Rejects." So movies are my incurable addiction and repertory cinema is a means to fuel that addiction.

There simply are not enough repertory cinemas out there. I'm not talking about the art house theatres but the theatres that show a variety of films on a daily basis. New films, old films, forgotten films, films you either haven't seen in a theatre or simply have never seen before. When living in South Jersey, I only knew of one such theatre in Philadelphia, the Theatre of the Living Arts. I remember a friend and I went to a midnight screening of "Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer" and were paranoid heading home on the train. In Los Angeles, there are four repertory cinemas that I frequent and I actually feel sorry for fans in other cities that don't have access to establishments such as these.

I have seen John Carpenter's "Halloween" so many times but I had never seen it in a theatre. I went to a screening of it and it was like I was watching it for the first time. It was large and in your face. Seeing it with an audience just brings a whole new energy to the experience, even more so if you know there are people seeing it for the first time and you hear their shrieks in the background. This is just one example of a typical viewing experience at a local repertory theatre.

Lately, I have reached the point where I'm willing to wait to see certain movies at home. I have a decent set up for movie watching so I have to decide if it's something I want to experience in a theatre or not. If the opportunity presents itself where I can see something I missed or had never seen in a theatre I will see it in that setting when possible. I jumped at the opportunity to see "Casablanca," "Sunset Boulevard," "Double Indemnity," "A Streetcar Named Desire" in the theatre. I had never seen them and seeing them this way was the way to go. Sometimes at home when I see a film for the first time that I really liked I wish I had seen it in the theatre.

On the flip side, if it's a movie I've seen countless times it's always a fun experience to see it again in the theatre. Over the years I've seen, to name a few, "Buckaroo Banzai," "Howard the Duck," "Flash Gordon," "Jaws," "Aliens" back on the big screen. Watching these films at home is one thing but to sit there in the dark, popcorn in hand, sipping a soda is a different beast all together. At home I have distractions in the theatre it's just me and the images on the screen.

When possible movies should be experienced in the setting it was originally intended. Repertory cinema cultivates that experience and there should be more of this across the country. Granted the big chains will have an occasional revival screening, "Airplane," "Top Gun," for example, but it should be something done on a regular basis. Despite the advances in home theatres, nothing will replace the experience of watching something in the movie theatre.

Case in point, "Silverado" is one of my all-time favorite westerns. I saw it when it was released in theatres and have seen it countless times on VHS, laser disc, DVD and Blu-ray. However when I watched it again in the theatre for the first time since it opened, in 70mm no less, I was a little kid again. Watching it at home did not give me that same giddy feeling.

So if there is a repertory theatre in your area, embrace it, support it, frequent it because it's the only way you can see films in their proper setting.


As I mentioned there are four repertory theatres in the Los Angeles area.

The American Cinematheque at the Egyptian and The American Cinematheque at the Aero

The Egyptian is located in Hollywood and is a gorgeous, opulent, classic movie theatre. The Aero is located in Santa Monica and is a smaller, traditional theatre. The Egyptian screen is large while the Aero's screen is about the size of a smaller screen at an AMC. They show all sorts of films often times in themes. One program screened classics like "Casablanca," "Double Indemnity," "The Maltese Falcon," "Sunset Boulevard," "On the Waterfront" and "A Streetcar Named Desire." All movies I had never seen and my first viewing experience was on the big screen. Classic. Many screenings are often followed by a Q&A with people involved with the film. As a card-carrying member of the Cinematheque I must say this is one of the best repertory theatres around.

The New Beverly Cinema

This theatre is like my second home. They screen all sorts of films typically as double features. At $7 per ticket, you will not find better entertainment for your buck. It's a traditional style movie theatre with a screen about the size of a smaller AMC theatre. Films range from classics to camp, from schlock to horror. Programs range from midnight screenings, double features, triple features, and all-nighters. Occasionally they'll have special screenings with Q&As that follow. This theatre is owned by director Quentin Tarantino and will continue to be programmed as the premiere repertory theatre in the country.

Cinefamily at the Silent Movie Theatre

The Silent Movie Theatre in Hollywood is just that, a silent movie theatre that has become a great repertory theatre. The programming is very different from your traditional repertoire theatre. Here they program films because it would be just so bats**t cool to see them in the theatre with an audience. For example, "Halloween II," "Elm Street 3" and "Friday the 13th 4" all played as a triple bill. These guys just love movies and love sharing them. Occasionally they will have Q&As after screenings, sometimes post screening receptions in the back. This is the first theatre I've gone to where they just flat out served free beer. As a card-carrying member of the "Cinefamily" I can honestly say that theirs is by far the best membership program I've ever joined.

You can't go wrong with any of these theatres. If you haven't visited them, do so. Do so now!!!

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