Something hidden -- go and find it;
Go and look beyond the Ranges
Something lost behind the ranges:
Lost and waiting for you. Go!

-- from Guy Maddin's CAREFUL

Being a periodic meditation on some of the more obscure outlying regions of cinema;
regarding movies that are inadequately publicized and hence, easily overlooked --
and by cinema, it is meant in the larger sense of films/tv/DVD/internet --
that might be worthy of your interest, but perhaps has escaped your notice.


Friday, December 14, 2007

A Night at the Movies . . .

       Once upon a time, when one ventured forth to the cinema, this meant one was taking a trip to a palace. The Golden Age of moviegoing -- the period between the first and second World Wars -- produced many great venues created for the express purpose of watching films; luxurious, baroque edifices dedicated to the worship of motion pictures. As movie theaters became more ubiquitous, and television brought cinema right to the comfort of one’s living room, venues became less grand -- and in fact, downright squalid, in many cases. Despite the prevalence of broadcast television and home video -- and home theater set-ups’ which potentially offer better sound and picture quality than your local mall-plex -- there are a few bright spots out there as regards the practice of movie-going; the brightest of which is undoubtedly Hollywood’s Arclight Cinemas.

       As anyone from L.A. almost certainly already knows -- the Arclight is an “upscale” theater venue, built in and around the site of the old Cinerama Dome -- quite the movie-palace in and of itself... despite (or maybe because of) it’s retro-futuristic design. In addition to upgrading the sound and projection equipment at the Dome itself, Pacific Theaters constructed 14 additional state-of-the-art Black-Box auditoriums on the site -- film venues built to the rigorous standards of professional screening rooms. As important as all this pursuit-of-technical-excellence is, what makes theaters like the Arclight so appealing is that they’ve been created with the understanding that for the serious movie-goer, taking in a film should be a pleasant, even exhilarating experience, -- from start to finish. As a consequence, rather than a shabby, cramped mall multi-plex -- with blurry projection and the soundtrack bleeding through from the auditorium next door, to boot -- you’ve got a grand lobby, lending a suitable amount of gravitas to your entrance (after all, you’re here to worship, right?), a restaurant for dining before, and a bar for drinks afterwards... and reserved seating -- so your favorite seat is there, even if you arrive 30 seconds before show time. It’s enough to actually make one look forward to a night at the movies again.

       Of course, not every movie theater needs to be a palace; I still like to make the occasional trip to my local grindhouse, -- and have oh so fond memories of summer nights at the drive-in. The point is, all these types of venues have more character and style than a typical multi-plex; and, if you’re going to make an evening of it, who wants to go someplace as drab and charmless as the Smithtown Mall 6? The good news is that the success of the Arclight (it’s consistently been one of L.A.’s top-ten grossing theater venues since it opened) has prompted other theater chains to make their own attempts at improving the movie-going experience. The Landmark recently opened on L.A.’s westside, and while it is in no way a better venue than the Arclight -- it nonetheless does have most of the latter’s features and services. It also has one new spin on theater-going that the Arclight doesn’t -- A couple of “living room”-style auditoriums, which feature comfy sofas and roomy recliners to sit on. This seems like an idea with obvious appeal for couples; although at $14.00 a pop to get in, I’d just as soon keep my mind on the screen... -- but maybe that’s just me.

       Arclight Cinemas is opening a new venue today, Dec. 14th, in Sherman Oaks, CA, at the Galleria (itself the site of scenes from many a movie: from Commando to Valley Girl). While this location doesn’t offer anything as architecturally engaging as the Cinerama Dome, the mall itself has recently been remodeled into a not unpleasing open-air market -- and the plans for the theater auditoriums themselves seem to be up to the high standards of the Hollywood venue. It’s also located all of about a half-mile from where I’m currently working -- so I guess I know where I’ll be spending my next night at the movies...

Some links:

Occasional commenter Van Choojitarom’s tale of an actual trip to the Arclight theater: a completely true account! Except for the parts he made up... -- which is to say, most of it.

Frequent commenter Paula Carino’s somewhat less frenzied recollection of seeing a film at the Arclight -- and her opinion as to how it compares to some NYC venues.

Next post -- 12/21/07

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