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The answer is simple: they probably want to see the latest and greatest at their local movie theater as opposed to waiting months and months for it to come home on video.
Most of the younger generation don’t even know what 70mm is. On my AFI Silver post, I made mention of the fact that the introduction of the manager (probably someone just out of school) should have made some mention of it since a lot of the audience, for “2001: A Space Odyssey”, was probably in their 20s or much, much younger. I saw kids who were probably 5 and 6 in the front rows! Since a lot of them fuel the box office numbers these days, education is important.
I’ve written to Loews, now AMC, to no avail. Maybe the independents will have better luck like Balto’s Senator, but Mr. Kiefaber has been mum to 70mm posts for the last 3 years and has recently been preoccupied with his venue’s financial woes. But if the Uptown continues with its lousy projection, 70mm or 35mm, it will die.
I suppose the next time we see “2001” at the Uptown it will be in glorious 4K digital on the curve screen. ;)
With the Dreamgirls recent Oscar wins, I suspect it will stay around a little longer.
And the Oscar for Longest Cinematreasures blog goes to….. :: drumroll :: Steve!!
It is great to have this forum to hear what people, from within the industry, have to share about exhibition and practices.
My comment about my preference for digital projection is solely because regular film projection in the DC/MD/VA venues just plain suck! I’ve posted comments about independents like the Old Greenbelt and Avalon and their presentations that were consistently first rate but they don’t always book films that I want to see and, in the case of Greenbelt, they get movies sometimes several weeks after their initial release.
As for 70mm, I’d be glad to see its reemergence. In the 80s, my friends and I would go to places like the Uptown and now closed MacArthur, Fine Arts, Cinema, Embassy, Onatrio, Jenifer and, at one time, the tiny Tenley 3 for 70mm exclusives of first run films because we knew of its difference. Even if the majority of the prints were blow ups. But let’s face it, given its expense and the lack of venues to properly show it, its dead, dead, dead. Digital is the future and is here to stay. If I’m wrong and 70mm somehow miraculously makes a comeback (unlikely), then no one would be happier than I.
And how does this all relate to the Uptown???? Given several moviegoers documented experiences here of late, including my own, why should anyone patronize this venue given its less than average presentation qualities? None, if other than for nostalgia reasons. If they had fairly regular 70mm presentations of classics, then sure people will come. But they haven’t had any 70mm since “2001” in 2001, if memory serves me correctly. So short of a 70mm revival, this place is scrap left on the cutting room floor! Finito!
I don’t think the Senator ever owned the Staples parking area, though I could be wrong. I only remember at one time, they announced that they had a sharing agreement to USE the parking area back in.. ‘02 or so. If my memory is correct, than the idea of a sharing agreement, much less the non-use of the Staples area, for the previous years of alleged Senator-owned land would seem ludicrous. Even on sold out events, I don’t recall the entire Staples lot being full, which goes back quite a bit, since you have some street parking and the area around the Belvedere shopping area.
The ‘shake’ that I speak of is when they play any trailer (film) especially the THX sound one, that usually precedes the main attraction. Since they didn’t play it for 2001, there wasn’t any shake.
I am in totally agreement with you about the other theaters here. I’ll take the AFI ‘broom closets’ over anything that their neighbor Consilidated has (and believe me they aren’t as good) or the nearby Regal Rockville 13, or the shoebox AMC White Flint 5 anytime anyday. Though to be perfectly honest, I’ve never watched a movie in the smallest AFI auditorium (lucky me).
I wish the AFI would play other 70mm movies than this film and “Lawrence of Arabia.” With their pull and industry contacts and affiliation, they should be able to do better for us east coast moviefans. We’re treated like step children here! And, yes, I’ve written to them to no avail. The last time they played “West Side Story,” “Sound of Music” and “Mary Poppins”(?) they were all in 35mm.
Article? Are you referring to the Balto Sun article, then the answer is yes. If you’re referring to the Senator website and forums, then that answer is yes, too. I’ve been a forum member since 2004 and a regular and frequent patron of the Senator since 1999. My comments are based on well known facts, even mentioned by the owner, himself, as far as the competitive environment and clearance issue are concerned. I’ve stated elsewhere on this site that it was rather ominous that for almost a year, the Senator had an opened ended date, as part of a list of theater obituaries. Its not a surprise to me that that venue is having operating difficulties. Let’s collectively rejoice in the fact that it has overcome this financial bump in the road and will continue for the future.
To be honest, its going to be an uphill battle given the fact that you have the Charles Theater and the Summer opening of a Landmark plex that are booking the types of movies that would do well at the Senator. Factor in the clearance issue that prevents the Senator’s single screen from booking many films and you have yet another potential future financial crisis and bail out dilemna. The Senator must implement other revenue streams than just solely rely on films and concessions.
As just a regular but frequent moviegoer, I’ve always been confounded as to why movie theaters cannot be more efficient in selling their concessions. My local Regal plex used to have a section where the more popular items were already stocked; various popcorn and soda sizes, nachos, large candy items, etc. Everything is there for you to get, no waiting. To echo and use a phrase that the comedian John Pinette says..“just grab and go” people! Grab your popcorn, soda and proceed to the cashier, pay and go quickly to your seat! Nowadays, there’s a snaked line of about 25-30 people who are individually served their popcorn and soda, while everyone twiddles their thumbs or bites their fingernails hoping to get their goodies before the show starts.
So butternut73, speaking from the other side, if you can get your customers to get the frequently asked for items ready for them to grab and go, you serve them more efficiently and quickly and earn faster $.
I happened to catch “2001: A Space Odyssey” this past Saturday to an almost sold out crowd of almost 400 that started a little late. The only vacant seats I could see were in the very first row. Management was kind enough to start the line and keep the crowd indoors and snake them around the lobby.
The presentation, itself, was very professional as they closed the curtain during the overture dimming the house lights. They also had the intermission with music..well, that 60s shreiking piece they played during the Stargate Corridor sequence. A Manager introduced the show and talked up AFI membership, but like in previous intros, they do so with the enthusiasm of visiting a proctologist. Maybe it was me since I sat in the very last row, but his voice ran fast and over the speel about joining AFI..blah blah blah. He made no mention about this particular movie as part of Kubrick’s body of work and how/why it is considered one of the best movies of all time. Or, at least explain the fact that the movie was in 70mm and how it is different from regular 35mm presentations. I say this since there were a lot of younger people (some probably no older than 6) in the audience, who probably have never seen a 70mm projected film in their lives.
The film had some scratches at the intro and at the start of the “To the Infinite and Beyond” sequence. Now, the close up of the bioreadouts of the crew before Hal killed them, looked grainy and dull to me. It made me wonder if this was a true 70mm print, or blow up, or 35mm? I suspect this print has been in circulation for awhile probably since the ‘01 rerelease. The soundtrack had an annoying tapping noise during Bowman’s rescue of Poole and proceeded up through the end of Hal’s disconnection. Other than that, the sound was full and encompassing. They played no trailers, whatsoever, not even the usual THX sound one.
On Sunday, 2-19, I was among over 400 attendees, to celebrate a birthday for Merv Conn (87), a local and very popular Accordionist, with some short films and live performances. This was a real treat as they showed some old films that showed what was Glen Echo Park and the old Trolleys that ran up through 1962…way, way before I was even born! I never knew Silver Spring had them but it was fascinating to see where they ran even though most of the tracks cannot be seen on the roads today. The live music was terrific that accompanied the silent color films. The 50 min HD video tribute to Merv Conn was played to the delight of the audiences, but I think that the director edited his interviews of his subject in a way that made him look like a buffoon. The man is 87 years old for pete’s sake and its a given that he’s going to be a little slow and hard of hearing!
All-in-all, its great to have a venue like the Silver to celebrate the arts both on film and live! Bravo!
I thought I had posted a comment on this venue several years ago and it seems like it has disappeared for some odd reason. As posted above, by Manwithnoname, the auditoriums play rather loudly but I haven’t frequented the place enough to say it is with consistency. My first visit here was way back in ‘93, where my cousin and I saw the first “Jurassic Park” in the then new sound format DTS. The show was a matinee but if I remember correctly, there was a balcony and yes, the sound was quite loud. My cousin kept clawing into my arm during the T-Rex stampede that they made impressions! The movie was quite a thrill ride due to, in part, to the digital sound system.
The last time I was saw a movie there was in ‘01 where gasp my friend and I saw Jurassic Park 3, in digital projection. This particular auditorium had the requisite crisp colors and bright picture that DP can bring and the movie, itself, was enjoyable. What I recall is that they played the THX trailer, sound trailer, DLP trailer and Technicolor trailer at the very end of the movie after the credits played.
If memory serves me correctly, didn’t this venue, or an adjacent place also have the now defunct Showscan operation? I thought I saw a Showscan poster at a theater next to this one, but it wasn’t showing anything when my friend and I saw JP3. I remember Showscan when they started out here in VA, back in …‘83 or so..70mm projected at 60fps and multi channel sound brought to life an almost life like experience that was something to behold.
Why and how on earth does the bank raise the amount needed by another $20k? I don’t see an explanation on their forums. Such a greedy bank. Whoever has an account there should close it in protest if they go through with the auction.
Nice interview! I was hoping to catch Dreamgirls again last weekend, at the Senator, but couldn’t make it. Let’s hope the Senator gets past this financial hump and can hang on to implement those different revenue streams that will ensure this venue’s continued survival.
As of this writing, they are at $61K, or about 2/3 of their goal, with just a few days left until the foreclosure. Short of a bank reprieve for a little more time, I think they should attain their goal. So everybody contribute!!! If you have, contribute again! :)
AFI will be showing “2001: A Space Odyssey” as part of its Kubrick retrospective in glorious 70mm this weekend, 2/16-18/2007. It should be showin in the historic auditorium. Though the screen is not as wide, nor the cinematic experience as engulfing as the Uptown, it will be great to see it in widescreen again.
Thinking back, I do recall that this movie theater had been outfitted with a Sensaround system because after Battlestar Galactica (the original 1978 ABC series) premiered, the two hour movie was theatrically released touting that kind of sound experience and was booked here. That being the case, maybe this theater showed Earthquake also in that sound format several years prior.
I prefer the minimalist or abstract approach to trailers. If you want to sell a movie, I believe you give enough to the audience to stir up interest, discussion and/or debate depending on the type of movie you want the moviegoer to see. You wouldn’t want to give away key plot points, otherwise where is the surprise? Sometimes you can sell a movie on a known name alone like a Spileberg, Scorsese, Michael Moore and/or a franchise because you pretty much know what to expect from them.
A perfect example that comes to mind is the trailer for the first “Alien.” At the time, I was not allowed to go to the movies with friends, much less a rated “R” one, but do remember seeing it on tv; the creepy soundtrack, the cracking alien egg, the slowly revealing title and then the voiceover saying “in space, no one can hear you scream.” If memory serves me correctly, there were more commercials for this film, in the same style, but added scenes from the movie..mostly crew reactions, the most memorable for me was a quick shot of Yaphet Kotto’s bloody red mouth screaming as he is obviously being killed by SOMETHING. It made quite an impression on me at the time. Eventually, I did see this movie sneaking into a midnight show after seeing the first Star Trek film. Ahh, the memories.
One practice that bugs me is how studios will front load trailers for their upcoming films on a current release. I would prefer to see a cross selection of movies opening SOON like within the month or so and maybe that big event movie closer to the right season.
Nowadays it seems that many trailers take the MTV approach in cramming as many images as you can in 30 seconds to a blasting soundtrack. Its stimulating all right in a mindless, numbing way. Even most movies today try to make the final cut under two hours. I think that kind of approach is not a good thing and forces creativity to be shortened for the sake of the limited attention span of a lot of folks today.
In the referenced article, it is reported that Mr. Kiefaber, the Senator Owner, did use some funds provided to him by the city via grants and/or guaranteed loans and did not pay the loans back. I doubt the city is going to be lending a helping hand this time around.
The Senator forums and local news reports talk about the problem of film clearance that certain venues use against independents like the Senator. Its a given this problem weighed somewhat into preventing the Senator from booking films that would have brought in more revenue than the films they did play there.
I, for one, have been requesting a classic film series like the Ziegfeld and Lafayette theaters, which could have brought in more revenue and showcased the gem of Baltimore that this venue is. It may not have cost as much as a first run booking, but now it seems its all a moot point.
The last time I was at the Senator, they seemed to be constructing the adjacent store front to the theater. I should have asked someone at the theater but didn’t as to what would be built there. It could be another theater, albeit a smaller one or a cafe or restaurant of some kind. A cafe would not be a good idea given the proximity (across the street) of many of them, including a Starbucks. Another theater or two would be nice as a holdover screen for those that opened in the main hall.
If the venue does survive, perhaps they should consider expanding their concessions to higher profit items..lattes, cappucinos, smoothies, gourmet cookies, desserts, etc. Perhaps a Senator/movie memorabilia store to sell Senator t-shirts, mugs, pens, movie cels, bulk movie tickets/passes and maybe some kind of satellite hook up to present live broadcast events such as sporting events, fights and even business events and conferences.
I’m saddened to read about this but its not all that unexpected. On the Senator website for many months, there was a rather cryptic posting of the Senator, along with other closed venues that had a 200? end date. The last film I saw there was Hollywoodland(I forget for sure)? This place was THE destination to see many if not all the major big releases especially the “Lord of the Rings,” “ Star Wars” prequel trilogy and “Matrix” trilogies on their large screen and stupendous Dolby EX system and powerful subwoofers. You don’t watch movies there, you experience them along with the 900 or so others on many opening nights.
The first and only movie I saw at this theater was “Raiders of the Lost Ark” when it was first released in 1981. Since I wasn’t old enough to drive, I had to rely on my older brother to take me, along with his date to see this movie. It was a fully packed house and very enjoyable movie. The screen didn’t seem that large to me but was adequate. I don’t recall if this theater even had stereo. I had wanted to go downtown to see it in 70mm, I believe at the KB Cinema, but my brother didn’t want to drive out and seek out parking. After that we went to the now closed Giffords Ice Cream place and tried to reenact some of the more humorous scenes, much to the amusement of some of the patrons there.
As far as rcdalek’s comment about this venue being the best place to see “Top Gun,” I would have to disagree. This particular movie opened wide, in 1986, and was showin in 70mm in several metro houses, including the then new Academy 8, in Greenbelt, MD. They had a wonderful 70mm 6 track Dolby set up and that presentation brought out the bombastic Giorgio Moroder score, Kenny Loggins' “Danger Zone” title song and the various booms, whooshes and after burner sound effects to great enjoyment!
I recently caught “The Good Shepherd” during its short run and thoroughly enjoyed the presentation. Based on the last few visits here (to see “The Devil Wears Prada”, “Sideways”), I can see how some will say that a properly handled 35mm film can be as good as or superior to digital projection. The colors were well balanced and rich as well as the picture being relatively bright. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a comparable DP presentation of the movie in the DC area to better compare it with and I’m sure that the DP version would have brighter colors and a scratch free presentation.
Support your Independent Theater Owners!
As someone who enjoys watching movies in a theater, I cannot say that the release patterns of films and the PR campaigns used to promote a film’s box office or potential award stature phases me. It is agreed that sometimes the pros make mistakes with certain films. Ron Howard’s “Cinderella Man” comes to mind in its ‘05 summer release mistake. It should have been released at the end of the year closer to Oscar time for both the accolades and better box office it deserved.
When award season rolls around, people should keep in mind just who exactly is handing out the award before they start complaining and/or passing judgment. A People’s Choice Award is just that, an award bestowed upon the Best (fill in the blank) based on the number of votes received by Gallup poll voters. Oscars are given by professionals in the industry, who are not John and Jane Q. Public.
Keeping all this in mind, let’s continue a sane, civilized and respectful discourse this Award Season.
By the way my picks are:
Best Actor: Peter O'Toole (long overdue, if seldom seen movie
Best Actress-Helen Mirren (all hail “The Queen”)
Best Supporting Actress – Jennifer Hudson (and I am telling you..she deserves it, but the others wouldn’t upset me to win, especially Abigail Breslin as the endearing Olive in “Little Miss Sushine” or Rinko Kikuchi as the hauntingly repressed mute in “Babel.”
Best Supporting Actor – Alan Arkin for “Little Miss Sunshine.” Now Eddie is good in “Dreamgirls” but his performance didn’t draw me into his character. I kept thinking I was watching him do one of his extended SNL characterizations. Sorry. Dijmon? No. Mark Wahlberg? Are you kidding me?
Best Director – Toss up between Clint Eastwood for the moving “Letters From Iwo Jima” and Scorsese for “The Departed.” Now Eastwood already has got his due two years ago for “Million Dollar Baby” and, my hunch is this is the year that the usual losers (like O'Toole above) finally get their just desserts..so this year its Marty!
Best Picture – Not sure, but if Scorsese takes it for directing “The Departed” and gets the DGA, he should get Best Pic, but if not, I’d go with Eastwood’s “Letters from Iwo Jima.” I’d like to think Oscar rewards movies that are as moving but it would be a pleasant surprise for “Little Miss Sunshine” to win though for its lighter fare, eclectic cast and story.
Justin is just showing his age and youthful enjoyment of what he believes to be a cool place to hang. I’m sure we all felt that way about a particular venue or destination point at his age.
Muvico sounds like it is on to something but why does it concentrate mostly in the Florida markets? They have most of their theaters there. We could use something like that in the DC area. Their Egyptian 24 plex here is quite good and is large enough to be refurbished to turn it into this new entertainment model.
As far as the smaller auditoriums, you can still experience something special provided all the elements come together. Anyone remember Showcan? They touted a curved screen, 70mm/multi track stereo experience run at 60fps in an intimate environment of say less than a 100 patrons. The audio visual experience was something to behold with its bright picture and multichannel sound, much better than anything 2K digital for sure! I vividly remember one short film they had that was 3D like where they had this woman in front of some kind of netting that made it look she was actually in the room with you breathing against the net. Other shorts had elements that reminded me of Doug Trumbull’s “Brainstorm” movie showing the same (POV) shot of a semi driving off the road and taking on flight.
The venue they had in Virginia was more family oriented, with video and carnival-type games as the theater, itself, was in a large pizza parlor. Unfortunately, they never developed much content or attractions beyond that and have now gone out of business (Showscan).
This wasn’t a bad venue. I remember attending the grand opening weekend back in ‘87 or so watching “Broadcast News” and became a favorite movie plex of mine up through the mid 90s.
Auditoriums 4 and 5 were THX certified in previous years and had 70mm capability. They had great 70mm presentations of “Die Hard,” “Star Trek V,” “Batman” and “Dick Tracy” from what I can recall. I believe they also had “Lawrence of Arabia” for a brief time after it had played the Uptown, during the late 80s or early 90s. But as 70mm releases pretty much dried up, so did my patronage of this plex. I believe the last time I saw a movie here was probably ‘00 and believed they lost THX certification in 4 and 5 as the plaques and trailers were gone. The 'experience’ and movie that I saw were both forgettable.
It is true there is a grand lobby for the venue, so if a new owner runs the place, they could turn it into a Bistro or Cafe. A mix of mainstream and art programming (classic 70mm anyone?) could make it viable again since Landmark is in Bethesda, on one end, and AMC Georgetown is at the other end of Wisconsin Ave and neither of those venues can show 70mm.
What is the big deal of being misty eyed during a movie? The place is dark, you and say, 600 patrons are there. They can’t see you that well, you can’t see them all that well. Is it wrong to admit some emotional connection that causes a reaction to what is happening on screen? If so, then I forsee the need for a Dr. Phil intervention in one’s future. :) Now with male friends it may be different, what you do is breath deeply and sigh as you sink in your chair during that sad moment. If you’re with female friends/dates, then you can be less non-chalant about it but whatever the situation, make sure you’ve regained composure when the house lights come up unless you want to risk embarrassment as patrons file past you.
The last time I was moved to tears watching a movie was probably the euthanasia scene of Hillary Swank’s character at the end of “Million Dollar Baby.” Prior to that, probably Schindler, at the end of Schindler’s List, where he cries out that he could have/should have done more to save Jews with John Williams'/Isthak Perlman’s (s)weeping score in accompaniment. Going back to the classics..the end of “Wuthering Heights” where both Heathcliff and Cathy find each other again..in death.
If a good movie can bring one to tears, in the relieving sense, not because it was a waste of your $10.50 or your date forced you to watch “Police Academy: The Next Generation,” than the filmmakers have done their job. Don’t fight the emotion, just embrace, let it go and enjoy it.
Tonight we saw “Notes on a Scandal” in the historic auditorium. The movie, itself, has some contemporaneous revelancy and touts terrific performances from both its stars Cate Blanchett and Judi Dench. The latter commands on screen attention in an understated way especially with her character’s narrative. She could breath drama into just reading the ingredients off of a Twinkie wrapper! Her character will have discussion groups with much to talk about especially in the GLBT community.
The presentation, itself, was very good. The curtains were closed as the audience was filing in and opened when the trailers started. An AFI employee introduced the movie but still could use a little more oomph with maybe a tidbit or two about the movie to be seen and not just getting people to sign up for memberships. They played the older “Let’s See it in THX” trailer which showcased some of the auditorium’s sound potential. Yet again, there was that on screen jiggle during transitions as if someone were holding the projector with his/her hands. The film print was good with just a few scratches in one part that would’ve been a bigger detraction had the screen been any larger.
This past Saturday, 12/30, we caught the 7:20pm show of Dreamgirls. I timed my arrival to park my car in a space, in front of the theater, just as patrons were leaving :) Given the success it has had in limited runs, I had expected a greater turn out at the Uptown. There was a line that stretched the block, but was not enough to fill the house. The film was warmly received but not lively and somewhat restrained given some of the production numbers and standout performance by Jennifer Hudson. Probably the make up of the patrons had something to do with it. A good decision by the manager to tear stubs while we were in standing line to get in made theater entry and seating much faster and efficient.
The presentation, itself, was good up to a point. The curtain was opened wide enough at the beginning to facilitate the preshow ad slides. Then it was closed and opened wide before the movie started, which was an unexpected surprise! The sound was good with decent surrounds. Midway through the movie, there was that annoying black line that ran down the middle of the screen, which I recall seeing when I saw the last Star Wars movie there. On a screen as tall and wide as the Uptown, such a prominent black streak is especially annoying and irritating. If they had had digital projection here as they did at NYC’s Ziegfeld, I’m sure the presentation would have been far better. But I’m curious as to how, or even if DP projects on the curved screen at the Arclight in Hollywood, as it would need to here to fill the screen.
Overall, my experience for this show was better than the last several times. I am perplexed as to why there was that seemingly same black streak during the movie. Is it part of the projection system maybe? If so, they need to get it fixed. If its due to print handling, then they need to do a better job at taking care of their prints. If they can fix that problem, then catching event films here would make me a regular patron again.