Movies - Theaters postsSunday March 27, 2011
One Movie's Ceiling is Another Movie's Floor
I went to the Harvard Exit last night for the French film “Des hommes and des dieux,” which recently won the best film at the Cesar Awards, and which is flipped in the translation, for some reason, to “Of Gods and Men.”
It's a quiet film, with many contemplative moments, as befits a film that takes place mostly in a monastery; but the other film showing at the Harvard Exit, “The Last Lions,” a documentary about the dwindling African species, is a little less quiet. During the quiet, contemplative moments of my film, I kept hearing a faint but insistent bass beat, like the throb of a headache, from “The Last Lions”'s jungle/savannah soundtrack.
Both films take place in Africa but I doubt they're mix-and-match. Not sure what movie theaters like the Harvard can do about this. Book films according to soundtrack similarity?
I suppose I should be happy I can hear the lions at all.
Awwwwwwwww. But could you keep it down, please?
R.I.P.: Uptown Theater (1926-2010)
What can you say about an 84-year-old movie theater that dies? That it was cold and rundown? That it loved documentaries and foreign films? And “Transformers”? And me.
I first heard the prognosis a week ago when Patricia and I were having dinner at the home of Michael Upchurch and John Hartl, and John, long-time movie critic for The Seattle Times, dropped the bomb. I can't say I was suprised. Here's what I wrote in May 2009:
The Uptown was renovated in the early 1990s but that’s all I have on its history. It’s part of the AMC chain, but it’s an odd link in that chain. It usually plays small, independent films, or mid-range films, but occasionally it’ll show a big feature on opening weekend—as with “Angels & Demons.“ The place never seems crowded. Feels like it's dying. The 4:05, Friday showing of “Angels & Demons” had fewer than 16 people in an auditorium built for...300? Which doesn't bode well for either “A&D”’s box office or Uptown Cinema.
It got worse. I saw two movies there in the same week at the end of October: ”A Film Unfinished,“ in which I was joined by one other person, a man in his 60s, and ”Aftershock,“ in which I was joined by ... no one. When I left the theater, the guy working the popcorn stand asked me how the movie was. ”You're the only one who's seen it,“ he said.
How AMC handled ”Aftershock“ is part of the problem, John thought. They didn't advertise it at all. At all. No ads in the print version of The Seattle Times. ”Aftershock“ was a movie that set the box-office record in China this year and no one in Seattle knew it was playing. I only knew it was playing because I'd seen ”A Film Unfinished“ a few days before, me and the other guy, and they'd played the trailer for ”Aftershock“ beforehand, and I thought, ”That looks interesting.“ Then that Friday I walked past the theater—I work a block away—and saw it on the marquee.
A block away. I'm gonna miss that. Ever since I moved back to Seattle in September 2007 and began working in lower Queen Anne, I've had that opportunity, that convenience. The Uptown is where I was suprised by ”The King of Kong,“ charmed by ”Hors de Prix,“ disappointed in ”Angels & Demons,“ disgusted by the overwhelming stupidity of ”Transformers 2,“ and moved by ”Bright Star“ and ”A Film Unfinished.“ It's where I saw one of the first movies I reviewed for The Seattle Times, ”Titan A.E.,“ in 2000. It's where I attended special screenings for ”What Lies Beneath“ and ”Meet the Parents.“ Forgettable movies, but for some reason I remember seeing them at the Uptown.
There were problems. The sound wasn't always great, the films sometimes seemed dim, the theater often felt cold, the popcorn—when I bought it—tasted day-old. None of that was the Uptown's fault. It only closed because people stopped caring: AMC and moviegoers.
SIFFblog has a nice historical rundown here. The theater opened on May 25, 1926, showing ”The Sea Beast,“ an adaptation of ”Moby Dick" starring John Barrymore. The Seattle Star (R.I.P.) celebrated its grand opening:
The newest styles in projection machines of the reflector type are installed to prevent eye strain. A new Wurlitzer is to be put in, and Carl Weber's orchestra is playing. Dan Gipple is the manager.
There was a record-breaking crowd that night.
Before the Show at Regal Meridian No. 10
Theater: Regal Meridian
Location: Downtown Seattle
Seated: 4:40 for a 4:50 showing.
Most of the slides before the show were some variation of self-advertising: "Make an appointment with a PRIVATE SCREENING"; "Corporate movie tickets"; "Regal Gift Cards." Plus the usual pleas to "ADVERTISE HERE." Subtext: "So we DON'T." There were also the usual movie-star quotes ("I gravitate toward gravitas" —Morgan Freeman) and trivia about just-opened, soon-to-be-forgotten movies (Question: "This actress was more than just a 'friend' in 'Love Happens'"). To top it off, they piped in music by bands like "Someone Say Something" and "Sugarland." By the time the lights dimmed, you wanted to kill yourself.
Then we got the real ads on the movie screen:
- Morgan Freeman's voice telling us "VISA Debit is the safe, secure way to pay online." Gravitas!
- Ford ("the thrust of a... the thirst of a..."). Someone's English major degree finally paid off.
- The "Crash" TV show: "If you're not using someone then someone's using you." Jesus, right?
- The new "Jay Leno" show. Idiots say the darnedest things.
- Coke Zero w/NASCAR.
- The blowing up Mt. Rushmore/Sprint/Turn off your cell ad. Ha ha, blowing up national monuments is funny again. So glad.
- "Old Dogs": From the director of "Wild Hogs." They changed three letters in the title and added Robin Williams. This Thanksgiving? Seriously? Walt Becker gets Thanksgiving while Martin Scorsese gets pushed back to February.
- “Shutter Island”: Or does he? This thing is still being advertised as October. Mistake? BTW: Love Ben Kingsley's line reading here: "It's as if she vanished, straight through the walls." It's officious, clinical and creepy.
- "Couples Retreat": This is the movie that feels like February or March instead of October. Maybe the counter-programming will work, though. It's a good cast (the Double-V, as my friend Adam says), and if reviews are halfway decent I might go. "Now we've got a party."
- "A Christmas Carol": Disney, ImageMovers, and Walt Disney (again), and Robert Zemeckis, invite you to...waste your money. I think they mention Charles Dickens' name in their somewhere. Is it just me, or does the animation look stiff? The story feels slapsticky and comedic, too. The feeling the book gives you—that you're trapped by your circumstances, your personality, your history—is removed even before Scrooge's epiphany removes it. And the tagline? "What if you were given a second chance to get your life right?" Second chance? Every moment is a first chance. That's the whole point. Bah, humbug.
Before the Show at Pacific Place No. 2
Movie: “(500) Days of Summer”
Theater: Pacific Place
Screen: No. 2
Location: Downtown Seattle
Seated: 3:18 for a 3:30 showing.
- Blackberry Pearl Smartphone. Includes butt conversation. Classy.
- U2: “Every generation gets a chance to change the world.” Or advertise in it.
- Extended featurette for a new TV series by David S. Goyer: Flashforward: “It began like any other day...until 7 billion people blacked out.” Apparently we wake up knowing our future. And what do we do with that knowledge? And how much, if anything, can be changed? Etc. I probably won't be there for it, but...bon appetit.
- Jeter, Federer, Tiger Woods, a dude trying to pick up a girl: “We all have confidence, we all have doubt.” But some of us don’t have to try to pick up girls.
- Cube Mobile. Turns out it’s an ad for a car.
- That Facebook thingee with the girl who can’t sing.
- That Benjamin Bratt show, in which he saves addicts while “Hallelujah” plays in the background. I remember when that song was new. (More on this later.)
- “What has search overload done to us?” Somehow Bing is supposed to help. That's like: What have all of these Big Macs done to us? Eat at Burger King.
- A J.C. Penney whatever.
- The dancing shark/Minute Maid thing. Is “Who’s gonna get the empties?” the best line they could come up with?
- A bunch of bugs steal a bottle of Coke from a picnic and then crawl all over it. Num.
- “First Look”: Actually second. It's a summary of what's just been advertised. In case you've forgotten.
- Blowing up Mt. Rushmore/turn off your cell phone message
- MST 3000 Fathom event ad: Thursday, August 20. Might be fun.
- Magic Flute Fathom event ad: August 5. Might be fun.
- Will Rogers Institute
- “In case of emergency, walk, do not run, to the nearest exit.” These are new. Wonder what brought them on? What tragedy where? What lawsuit where?
- “Funny People”: “I think your grandfather went to hell” is one of the funnier lines I’ve heard in a trailer. I mean it. Despite mixed reviews, I’m looking forward.
- “Time Traveler’s Wife”: In any love story, the dramatic question is: How do you keep the lovers apart? The solution here is to steal from Kurt Vonnegut. I.e., Eric Bana just got unstuck in time. “I can’t stay,” he says. “I know,” she says. So tragic. If he'd only stay they'd realize how much they don't want to be together. Nice to see you again, Rachel McAdams, but not in this.
- “Love Happens”: Jennifer Aniston and Aaron Eckhart give the rom-com another go. His wife has died and he’s written a book about it, a self-help book, that’s sweeping the nation. He’s in Seattle for a book reading. She’s in Seattle. They click. They don’t. Their noodging friends push them together again. (Beautiful people in love are such pains.) He needs her. He confesses that his book is a lie. He probably comes clean. They probably get together. What’s the point of seeing this now? Now that they’ve given it all away?
- “Julie & Julia”: I am so there.
- “Taking Woodstock”: Fingers crossed.
Forgot my watch. Not sure when the movie started. But that's altogether too many ads. They're taking them from where they're needed (newspapers) and putting them where they're not wanted.
Before the Show at the Uptown
Movie: “The Hurt Locker”
Theater: The Uptown
Screen: Just the one
Location: Uptown, Minneapolis, MN
Celebrated in: Prince’s 1982 song “Uptown":
Everybody's going Uptown
That's where I wanna be
Set your mind free
Built in: The 1930s, after a fire destroyed the original Lagoon Theater. Another Lagoon, a multiplex Landmark theater, was built a block away in the 1990s. Landmark brags that the Uptown has the biggest screen in the Twin Cities but I can't believe it's bigger than the screen at the Riverview.
Operated by: The Landmark chain since 1978.
Memories: Too many to mention. I could write an essay on the number of times I went to the Uptown as a kid and teenager when it was a retrospective theater, showing double and triple features of old and recent films. Saw tons of Woody Allen there. Saw “Casablanca” for the first time and remember a few women hissing when Ingrid Bergman says, “You’ll have to do the thinking for both of us.” Saw “A Clockwork Orange” before I’d had sex and it probably screwed me up for life. Saw “The Man Who Fell to Earth” with my friend Nathan Katruud, and, as we stood in the lobby makng fun of the people milling about, I noticed one hipster dude and said he was probably thinking how everyone else was probably thinking he looked like David Bowie. Then I looked over at Nathan for confirmation—he was probably the funniest guy I’ve ever known—and his face seemed startled, as if I’d read his mind. He was in the early stages of rock-star fever. Eventually he changed his name and became Nash Kato of “Urge Overkill.”
Seated: 1:05 for a 1:15 showing. No ads, just alt pop playing (“Summer Number 39” by Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers), while floodlights bathed the screen in pinks and yellows and blues.
Lights go down: 1:15
- HDNet News. (British voice: “But what led your brother to become a suicide bomber?”) HDNet movies. (Demi Moore??? That’s a selling point?) Dan Rather.
- Stella Artois: “C’est pour toi, papa,” etc.
- The Palm 3 from Sprint. Apparently an ad for Facebook and a singer named, I believe, Joanna Gikas, as well. Do the advertisers know how off-key she sounds when she’s singing a capella?
- “Cold Souls”: “This is Paul Giamatti. And he has a problem.” So a character named Paul Giamatti sells his soul, then tries to get it back, but it winds up in Russia, where he travels to retrieve it. Amazing how both off-beat and familiar this thing feels. I guess it’s the off-beatness that feels familiar.
- “In the Loop”: This movie opened the Seattle International Film Festival in May but it already feels old, doesn’t it? Feels like it should’ve been released last year. But if it gets good reviews I’ll go.
- “The Cove”: A documentary about dolphin-killing in, particularly, Japan. “The dolphin’s smile is nature’s greatest deception.” Ditto.
- “500 Days of Summer”: Tough girl, moony boy. Once upon a time, that was my story. Now? I’ll probably go—it’s gotten great reviews—but it’s no longer my story.
Movie starts: 1:28
Before the Show at the Neptune
Theater: The Neptune
Screen: Just the one
Location: University District, Seattle
Built: In 1921
Operated: By the Landmark chain since 1981. Remodeled in 1994. The Landmark Web site still touts this, talking up the “ultra-comfy seats with cupholders” when, after 15 years, the seats ain’t all that comfy, while bragging about cupholders is like bragging about Dolby Digital. Which they also do.
I used to think: Landmark, which operates several of the better art-house theaters in Seattle, was local, but realized my error sometimes in the late 1990s. It’s based in L.A., and was owned by Texas-based Silver Cinemas International until, after filing for bankruptcy in 2001, the company sold the chain to Texas-based businessman, and Yahoo founder, Mark Cuban in 2003. According to its Web site, Landmark is “a vertically integrated group of media properties co-owned by Todd Wagner and Mark Cuban that also includes theatrical and home entertainment distribution company Magnolia Pictures...” Question: On a site supposedly for moviegoers, why use the compound adjective vertically integrated? Total turnoff. On the plus side, Magnolia Pictures has distributed some of the better foreign films and documentaries in recent years, including “Man on Wire,” “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room,” “Let the Right One In” and “Surfwise,” while Wagner/Cuban’s production company, 2929 Productions, helped make “Good Night, and Good Luck.”
Fond memories: When I first moved to Seattle in 1991 I lived two blocks away from the Neptune. Consequently I saw one of my first Seattle movies there (Todd Haynes’ “Poison”), along with probably the best double-feature I’ve ever seen (“Raging Bull” and “Goodfellas”). It’s where I realized that the Hong Kong craze had followed me from Taiwan (a packed house for Jackie Chan’s “Supercop” in 1993), and where I went with friends for the premiere of “Pulp Fiction” in October 1994. The line stretched around the block and we had to sit in the balcony. Fun.
Quirky details: The theater has a water theme, as befits its name, including stained-glass windows of a pagan nature. There's also a pitcher of water and dixie cups in the lobby for patrons. On the other hand: the concession stand is two steps from the box office, which creates a bit of a bottleneck as you’re trying to get in. But then it wouldn’t be Seattle if they didn’t sacrifice waiting needlessly for quirkiness.
Featured in: Cameron Crowe’s “Singles” (1992). Passing shot of the marquee during a montage of the city.
Seated: 4:23, seven minutes before scheduled showtime. No ads, just jazz playing. A rather loud boy keeps running away from his dad (or guardian) to the front row, which is way too close to the screen. I worry he’ll be a distraction during the movie but then think, “Well, it’s his movie more than mine.” Once the previews start I don’t hear a peep out of him.
- “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince”: Looks darker than ever, doesn’t it? Same director as the last one (David Yates) and for the first time the sorcerers appear to be entering the world of the muggles (us). That intrigued me. Some of the dialogue didn’t. “You’re the chosen one, Harry.” “Don’t you know who you are?” “Fight back!” Etc. The religious right has a problem with “Harry Potter” but these films, and the many like them, really play into the right’s worldview. There’s uncompromising evil out there. We are the chosen ones. And we have to fight back. It’s all getting a little tiresome. And dangerous.
- “Ice Age Whatever”: Fox and Blue Sky Studios. Unlike the almost Looney-Tunes-ish short from a few weeks back, which I liked, this trailer gives us the usual pop cultural snippets: “Talk to the trunk,” etc. It’s all getting a little tiresome.
- “G Force”: Disney and Bruckheimer. Special-agent guinea pigs are let go by the government and wind up in a pet store.
- “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs”: Hapless youthful inventor creates something that makes it rain...food. Hamburgers. Spaghetti and meatballs. Pancakes and syrup.
- “X Games 3D”: Not a fan of X Games. Not a fan of 3-D. (It makes everything look smaller. It diminishes.) Pass.
- “Toy Story 3”: June 2010.
Ads: Zilch. Merci.
Before the Show at SIFF
Movie: “L'Heure d'ete”
Theater: SIFF Cinema
Location: Pres de le Space Needle et sous l’Opera de Seattle
Operating: Since March 1, 2007 when the long-standing Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF), coming off record attendance, opened a 400-seat theater at McCaw Hall. There’s stadium seating but the place has the air less of a movie theater and more of a lecture hall. Which it is: the Nesholm Family Lecture Hall. It reminded me a bit of the theater at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, but, as befits Seattle, it’s more cramped, more claustrophobic. But I like the long blue curtains that parted before the movie began. That’s a fading (almost completely dead) tradition I’ve always been fond of.
Just who is the Nesholm Family anyway? Current architects and scions of one of the founders of UPS, which was—I just learned—founded in Seattle in 1907.
Arrived: A little before 4:00. Had to wait a very long time in a very short line to get my reserved tickets. Next year I should volunteer.
Ads before scheduled showtime: Slides. A lot of ads for, mostly, local businesses, including Scarecrow Video (“over 100,000 titles and growing”), City Arts Magazine, Vulcan, Zone Perfect, the Space Needle, Don Q Puerto Rican Rum, Pacific Place, and the Wallace Foundation. Some of the ads were so graphic-design-oriented and content-free that it was difficult figuring out what they were advertising.
4:30: Justine, one of the program directors, welcomed us to the second day of the 35th annual film festival and thanked the day’s sponsors, including TV5Monde and the Consulate General of France. Yep. A long way from those awful Nintendo DSI ads.
4:32: Lights go down.
- An ad for SIFF and its 35th annual festival, using, cleverly, the no. 35: I.e., 35mm film, the average winter low in Seattle, etc. And if we donate $35 to SIFF we can become members of the 35 Club. Didn’t. Desole.
- A crude animation ad for City Arts Magazine.
- An ad for TV5 Monde. “...with the latest films, the biggest stars.” Can’t say that for Hollywood films anymore, can we? The latest films from Hollywood tend not to have big stars, just superheroes and robots.
- “Aide-Toi, le ciel t’aidera” (“Help Yourself and God Will Help You”—although it looks like its English title has been secularized to: “With a Little Help from Myself”). A character study about North Africans living in difficult circumstances in France. But with a lot of joy and hope, too. At least for the trailer.
That’s it? I usually think theaters overdo the trailers but SIFF is at the beginning of a festival, for which, for most moviegoers, it’s hard to sort through all the choices. Trailers would’ve helped here. I've already bought tickets for four films at the fest, but, if a trailer, or trailers, looked good, I would've bought more. Missed opportunity for both of us.
Movie starts: 4:38
Before the Show: May 15, 2009
Theater: AMC Loews Uptown 3
Screen: No. 1
Location: Lower Queen Anne
Operating: The Uptown was renovated in the early 1990s but that’s all I have on its history. It’s part of the AMC chain, but it’s an odd link in that chain. It usually plays small, independent films, or mid-range films, but occasionally it’ll show a big feature on opening weekend—as with “Angels & Demons.“ The place never seems crowded. Feels like it's dying. The 4:05, Friday showing of “A&D” had fewer than 16 people in an auditorium built for...300? Which doesn't bode well for either “A&D”’s box office or Uptown Cinema.
Arrived: 3:59 for a 4:05 show.
Ads before scheduled showtime:
- Something about ncm.com and a “red carpet” somethingorother for “Angels & Demons.” It's sad that this even exists.
- That Canon ad, quoting F. Scott Fitzgerald, to say that F. Scott Fitzgerald is no longer relevant in a world that has such great Canon cameras.
- TV ad for the movie “Year One.” Why put TV ads in the AMC Movie Watcher’s Network? Why not just show the “Year One” trailer once the lights go down?
- The History Channel presents snakes, crocodiles, deadly bugs, desperation. “And that’s just the first nine minutes.” Somewhere this appeals to someone.
- “Starfleet Recruiting Center”: Not sure what this is an ad for. “Star Trek”? Guy doesn’t want to get beamed down, keeps talking, gets beamed down, faints. It’s supposed to be funny but I bet three “Star Trek” nerds in a basement could come up with something funnier.
- So “Year One” is a trailer masquerading as an ad; this thing is an ad masquerading as a trailer. Starts out with that familiar logo and the words “This PREVIEW has been approved...” Thus, if you haven’t been paying attention, you pay attention. Oh, previews. An ominous voice intones, “There are some things in life best left forgotten.” Pause. “Your anniversary is not one of them.” Then dude has to rush to get his (incredibly hot) wife an anniversary present before she wakes up. I think it’s about a car but I just remember the wife.
- ABC’s “Wipeout,” which is apparently back for another season. Didn’t even know it’d been there for a first.
- A woman pruning her roses. Pricks finger. Looks around. Tastes the blood. Ad for HBO’s “True Blood” on DVD. Not bad.
- That Sprite ad. They had a good one (last year?) where sweaty guys in an inner city b-ball court dove into the court, which was a pool, to quench themselves. That was clever. This thing is just odd. The setting feels more European, a piazza almost, and here people run and jump into each other and then disappear in a spray that quenches the smiling faces below them. Pretty creepy, really. I can see wanting to jump into a pool. But why would you want to disappear in a spray-like burst of water (or Sprite) that wets your friends below you?
“You have been watching the AMC Movie Watchers Network”
Total: Nine ads in six minutes. And I only had to pay $9.50 for the privilege.Oops, they're not over. There's also the Sprint “chimp” ad, asking us to turn off our cells. Make that 10 ads. And now something about Glen Beck and fathom events. How about unfathomable events? 11 ads.
- “The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3”: I’m a fan of the original, so this hypercharged version, with cars crashing and malevolent, tattooed villains spouting threats, just makes me feel sad and wish for 1973 New York.
- “Julie & Julia”: With Meryl Streep as Julia Child. And Amy Adams as, apparently, the “Sex and the City” girl for whom life isn’t opening up, and so she opens up one of Julia Child's cookbooks. I’ll be interested to see how they meld the two stories but right now it looks fantastic. Particularly since I know so little of Julia Child's story. I guess I assumed she was always, well, Julia Child.
- ”Public Enemies.“ Everyone knows how I feel about Michael Mann so I’m already there. Love the shot of Johnny Depp, as John Dillinger, vaulting over the bank counter, machine gun in hand. Oh, Production Code, how you shudder in your grave.
- The Proposal”: Again. How many times have I seen this thing anyway?
- “My Sister’s Keeper”: “Most babies are accidents. Not me.” Interesting. Abigail Breslin plays a girl who was genetically engineered to keep her sister, ridden with leukemia, alive. But at 13 she rebels. She consults a lawyer. She wants a say in what happens to her body, and what parts are taken from her, even if it means her sister’s death. As a result, the family—with parents Cameron Diaz and Jason Patric—is torn apart. We get scenes of them fighting. Then Abigail's voice over again... “But somehow the very things that tore us apart, brought us together—in ways we could never imagine.” And there they are, hugging, etc. Must be tough to do trailers these days. They’re designed to tell us some aspect of the plot of the movie, which is to say its conflict. But if the conflict is perceived to be a downer, as this one is, as the new Adam Sandler movie is, they have to let us know the resolution to that conflict. So, in his movie, Sandler may not be dying, and Breslin’s stand may bring her family closer together. Which leaves us what in the actual movie? What’s left to watch?
“Please don’t spoil the movie by adding your own soundtrack.”
Movie actually begins: Forgot to check the watch. Apologies.
Before the Show: May 8, 2009
Screen: Just the one
Location: Downtown Seattle
Operating: Since January 24, 1963 (four days after I was born) as Seattle’s Martin Cinerama, and retrofitted with 70mm projectors six months later. Big movies went out of style by the end of the decade, and the last of the 70mm films, “Krakatoa, East of Java,” played in 1969. By the mid-1990s there was talk of turning the Cinerama, now a gigantic second-run theater, into a dinner theater or a climbing club, when Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who had fond memories of watching movies there as a kid, bought it for $3.75 million in February 1998, renovated it, and reopened it in March 1999. Ever since, particularly when a blockbuster movie opens, it’s the place to go in Seattle.
Seated: 3:40, 20 minutes before scheduled showtime. No ads. No music. Just people-watching. God, how refreshing.
4:00: The long, light-purple curtains part, the place gets dark, the crowd erupts into cheers and applause.
- “Up”: I hope Pixar shows everyone up again. Looks great, looks funny, looks fun. Several scenes in the trailer made me laugh out loud.
- “Terminator: Salvation”: It’s taking human prisoners. It’s replicating human tissue. One wonders at what point in the movie Marcus Wright sees that he’s not human. Half an hour in? Forty-five minutes? One wonders at what point he says to John Connor, “I’m the only hope you have.” An hour? More? How much of the movie do we now know because of this trailer?
- “Angels & Demons”: Again. How many times have I seen this trailer now? I don't even hear the opera music at the end anymore.
- “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra”: First time for this one, and I was immediately turned off by the destruction of the Eiffel Tower at the beginning. When they blew up the White House in “Independence Day” back in ’96, yeah, that worked. Post-9/11? I’m not into it. But wait! A team is being assembled. And look! They walk toward the camera in slow-motion. And listen! One of them says, “When all else fails, we don’t.” God, how awful. No mention of the title until the end, when it provoked laughter from this “Star Trek” crowd.
- “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen”: Wouldn’t “Rise of the Fallen” be cooler? Whatever. Apparently Shia LeBeouf is at college now, and he’s seeing symbols, like a saner John Nash, and they have to mean something, and it all feels a little “National Treasure”-ish. And then Megatron wants... And then Optimus says... Are we really going here, America? Please say no. You know what would make an interesting movie? How does Shia LeBeouf keep Megan Fox as his girlfriend without a bunch of giant machines distracting everyone from the fact that they have nothing in common? I might go see that one.
Movie starts: 4:12. Not a single ad! Thank you, Paul Allen. You old nerd, you.
Before the Show: 5-1-09
Theater: Meridian 16
Screen: No. 13 (third floor)
Location: Downtown Seattle
Chain: Regal Entertainment Group, which, according to their Web site, operates “6,773 screens in 549 theatres in 39 states and the District of Columbia as of April 2, 2009.” That’s a helluva screen-to-theater ratio. REG’s corporate offices are in Knoxville, Tennessee, on their own street: 7132 Regal Lane.
Operating: The Meridian? Since December 4, 1996. But when it switched hands from Cineplex Odeon to Regal, I have no idea.
Arrived: 3:49, six minutes before scheduled showtime.
Before the scheduled showtime:
Unlike AMC theaters, which offers moviegoers (or demands moviegoers watch) “The AMC Movie Watchers Network” before scheduled showtimes, Regal Cinemas, at least at the Meridian, offers (or demands) music and slideshow. The music is generally slow hip-hop and pop (what a nice man Nat King Cole is to keep singing songs with his daughter!), while the slideshow includes overt ads (a fizzing Coke with the line “Thinkin’ About It?”) and subtle ads (How the makers of “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” worked with Levi Strauss Co. to get the right vintage clothes). There are ads to advertise during the slideshow, ads to rent the theater, ads for Regal Gift Cards, and “Know Your Ratings” promos. The movie-related quizzes (“Who said...?”) are often nothing quotes from movies that haven’t opened yet. (I.e., ads.) Yesterday we got “Live long and prosper,” which, while it’s from a movie that hasn’t opened yet (“Star Trek”), at least has the advantage of being famous.
3:55: Slideshow ends, video ads begin.
- Nintendo DSI ad with the elephant man/teenager. A sad commentary on what we think is funny.
- Canon HD Camcorder using a quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “Tender is the Night” to demonstrate how images have now surpassed words. A sad commentary on what we think of words.
- “Year One,” the TV ad
- “Expedition Africa” on the History Channel
- “Wipeout” on ABC
- Sprite ad
- Sprint chimp ad
- “Ice Age”: An extended, funny scene that gives away nothing of the plot and kind of makes me want to see the movie. It has a Road Runner/Wiley E. Coyote vibe to it. It’s also less trailer than cartoon short. Appreciated.
- “District 9”: The most interesting trailer of the bunch — for the audience reaction if nothing else. It begins documentary-style with people complaining about new immigrants: “Why do they have to live here?” You get shots of slums. It feels like an independent film, all liberal and shit, and you can almost feel the audience slumping in their chairs. Then we see the immigrants. They’re extraterrestrials. Boom! To a man, everyone sits up straighter and shuts up.
- “Funny People”: I want to see this new Judd Apatow movie but I hope they haven’t given away too much here. From the trailer we know: It’s about a friendship between two comedians, one rising (Rogen) one established and a movie star (Sandler). But wait: the established comedian is dying. But wait: he might be beating it. And from the experience he realizes how precious life is. And there’s a girl he loves. OK... so how much of the story is left?
- “Terminator: Salvation”: Wake me when it’s over. The whole thing. This whole franchise.
- “Night at the Museum” sequel: He's at the Smithsonian now, which allows more mingling of high and low culture: Amelia Earhart and Darth Vader. We also get miniature Albert Einsteins looking like the California Raisins and singing K.C. and the Sunshine Band songs. We want our geniuses funky in this country. Or the butt of jokes. Or both. Like here.
Before the Show: 4-24-09
Screen: No. 9 (upstairs on the left)
Location: Downtown Seattle
Operating: Since 1998
Arrived: 3:55, ten minutes early (I’m always early; it’s a curse.)
- AMC “Star Trek” gift cards (“Collect all four!” Four?)
- “Doubt” DVD (“You should understand that. Or you will mistake me.”)
- “Terminator: Salvation” (Bale holding onto that Dark Knight voice.)
- Nintendo DSI (Kids distorting each other’s photographs on their phones. One photo looks normal, though, and it turns out the kid himself has a distorted face. Uck.)
- “Parks & Recreation” (Again.)
- Another Nintendo DSI ad with distorted-face kid
- NCM.com and the premiere of “Angels & Demons”
- Olay body yadda-yadda
- New season of “The Deadliest Catch” (It feels like a Ken Burns doc compacted into 15 seconds.)
- The Honda Insight (A fun, quirky ad, actually.)
- Coke (Thirsty kid sees coke bottles everywhere.)
- Sprint ad/warning with chimpanzee movie star and agent (“It takes many calls to make a movie...”)
- Dr. Laura: “In Praise of Mom”
- “Death Note”
- Autism Society
- “Angels & Demons”: Don’t know about this movie, and I’m a little tired of operatic ooomph in trailers, but I like Tom Hanks’ admonishing line-reading here: “Fellas. You called me.”
- “The Boat That Rocked” with Philip Seymour Hoffman: How much of the movie are they giving away? I felt like I got the whole story. I felt like I don’t need to see the thing now.
- “The Proposal” with Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds. I hope the movie doesn’t fudge this fact: If your boss looks like Bullock and you hate her? You’d want to bang her even more, not less. But I get the feeling Reynolds’ character will only want to sleep with her (genteelly, of course) once he begins to like her. Blech.
- “Taking Woodstock”: Ang Lee and what looks like a great cast. Fingers crossed.
- “Imagine That”: Eddie Murphy and Rudy Huxtable.
- “Star Trek”: This is the summer blockbuster I’m most anticipating. Love it when Kirk sits in the captain’s chair. And Zachary Quinto (if his name only counted in Scrabble!) looks freakingly amazingly like young Leonard Nimoy.
Movie starts: 4:23 (18 minutes after scheduled showtime.)
Before the Show: 4-19-09
- Theater: Varsity
- Screen: No. 1, (ground floor)
- Location: University District, Seattle
- Chain: Landmark Theaters, since 1989
- History: The Meister Building was built in 1921 but it didn't house a movie theater until 1940. Renovation for additional screens occurred in 1985.
- Ads (begun at showtime):
- HDNet (“Television...is no place to hide,” says Dan Rather, as if he’s imparting wisdom. Surely one of the dumbest lines I keep hearing.)
- Stella Artois (Surely one of the best ad series I keep seeing. This was the one with the French cyclists. “C’est pour toi, Papa.”)
- The Wrestler on DVD
- 2009 Seattle International Film Festival (creepier and more opaque than it needed to be. C’mon, dudes.)
I used to go to this theater all the time, 10, 15 years ago, when I worked across the street at the University Book Store, and its eclectic schedule is part of the reason I got such a warped perspective of our national movieviewing habits. You mean everyone didn’t see “Stalingrad”? Or even have the chance to not see “Stalingrad”? I live on the other side of town now so haven’t spent much time at the Varsity recently. I was even surprised at how small their main theater was — as if I were an adult returning to a childhood hangout rather than a 40-something revisiting some place I hung out at 33. Either everything gets smaller with time (we certainly do), or I’m used to the bigger, newer Regal theaters downtown now.
- “Enlighten Up!” (A doc about yoga that started out interesting and then got a little too west-coast loopy for me. Pass, unless the reviews are good.)
- “Good-bye Solo”
- “Every Little Step: A Chorus Line”
I know. The latter.
Before the Show: 4-17-09
- Theater: Uptown Cinemas
- Location: Lower Queen Anne, Seattle
- Chain: AMC Loews
- Arrived: 7 minutes early
- Ads: “Doubt” (DVD)
“Parks & Recreation” (TV)
The KIA gerbil ad (it’s cool not to exercise)
“Life After People” (TV)
U.S. Marines ad
“Deadliest Catch” (TV)
Honda Accord ad (where they split the car down the middle)
Coke ad (sweaty, thirsty guy seeing coke-bottle images everywhere)
Dr. Laura (“In Praise of Mom” – live screening)
“You have been watching the AMC Movie Watchers Network”
- Trailers began: 4 minute late
- Trailers: “Public Enemies”
- Movie began: 12-14 minutes late
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