• December 8, 2006

    Theater parking lots and you

    We’ve all heard the story so many times. Wouldn’t it have been great to wakeup and be in the 1930’s. Not because of the economic conditions and not because of anyone in particular, but for the movie theaters. This was golden age and it was going well until the suburbs came along twenty years later by kneading the population across a much larger landscape.

    For the past decade, we’ve been at a new crossroads as well. A lot of our favorite triplexes and early multiplexes are getting phased out for new grander megaplexes. However, this transformation coincides with the last one. Just as people began going to smaller neighborhood theaters due to convenience, the same applies today. Not only because of the material amenities becoming more and more standard but because of the most precious commodity in some cities today, parking.

    How much has the amount of available parking doomed or celebrated your local theater? Expansive exterior parking lots seem to go hand in hand with the new stand alone megaplexes. One can hardly find a more irritating experience than circling around a tight lot for a prized space. As a result, huge pieces of property have been partitioned off to make sure this doesn’t happen, at least during anytime but the most high traffic days.

    The ease of parking has also been improved quite a bit. From different sized spaces to high tech lots that tell you the precise number of available spots on any given level. Let’s not forget about how much easier it’s gotten to get out of them. Prepay machines and lots where you in advance by space number are all the more common.

  • December 1, 2006

    The Wonderful Art of Seat Saving

    I can’t begin to tell you how much it pissed me off when my buddy told me we’d be saving seats for his sister when we saw “Munich” one Saturday night. Not just his sister but her husband and two of their friends. I didn’t even know any of these people and here I am sticking my neck out, letting them tarnish my perfect opening weekend experience.

    To understand exactly the degree to which this bothered me, you have to realize the tradition that was being jeopardized. For years, he and I have seen every Steven Spielberg film either opening night or opening weekend. Crossing state lines, going to the theater on no sleep; nothing ever stopped us from the event. Almost nothing, until his sister had to have dinner.

    So we were seeing this film the night after I’d just taken a red eye back from Los Angeles. Exhausted, I went to sleep until just before I had to drive to the theater. We only left time to get to the theater an hour in advance so we could procure the best seats in the house. Then I received the exciting news that we would have to save four prime seats next to us. I hadn’t planned on having dinner until afterwards. Some TGI Fridays chicken strips sounded pretty nice to me too at the time but I sacrificed them for my opening weekend experience. Not them though. Not the people that would end up watching the film from almost as good a sightline as I.

    As we came closer and closer to showtime, I became more and more well versed in spotting those eyeing our seats and waving them off. By the end, I didn’t even have to use any words cause I had the hand motions down to a science.

  • November 17, 2006

    The Mainstream/Indy Theater

    Going into Manhattan as a teenager was a special occasion. Before that, the extent of my travels into “the city” was the yearly trips in with my parents to see a show or go to an art museum. I was always mystified by all New York had to offer and once I had the chance to choose what to take from it, I was in heaven.

    As a fan of film and a budding screenwriter, Manhattan opened the door to more cinema opportunities than I ever thought possible. I’ll never forget my first trip to the Angelika. I was more than accustomed to the idea of a multiplex but never one that specifically showcased independent films. These weren’t just any indy films either. These were the hottest independent films of the day, many in exclusive engagements, playing nowhere else in the city at that time. From the moment I stepped inside the theater’s lobby, I knew this place was to become a regular addition to every trip into the city I made.

    As the 90’s came to a close, I would still frequent the Angelika along with the local theaters of my native Westchester like the Fine Arts and Greenburgh Cinema 100 whenever I wanted my indy flick fix. Something was happening though and I was starting to notice it even then.

    In 1996, four of the five Best Picture Nominees were independent films. The slate of directors like Mike Leigh and the Coen Brothers seemed better fit for Cannes than Hollywood. I didn’t give it much thought at the time, but looking back on it, how was it not inevitable that the industry would cash in on this growing contingent. A couple years later, I saw “Rushmore” at my local multiplex thinking it would be a standard comedy. Only when it was over did I realize that Wes Anderson might have had his bills paid by Buena Vista, but he was very much an independent director.