Movies - Theaters postsMonday May 11, 2009
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.
“Please don’t spoil the movie by adding your own soundtrack.”
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
4:00: Lights go down. The following preview has been approved...
- “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.
Movie actually starts: 4:12 — 17 minutes after scheduled showtime.
Before the Show: 4-24-09
Theater: Pacific Place
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.
“Please don’t spoil the movie by adding your own soundtrack”
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.)
- “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 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.
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