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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.
As of this writing, no further Email coupons though I did use my free screening pass to see ‘Night at the Museum’ in Auditorium 1..the largest of them and THX certified. Great sound and picture with some noticeable scratches during one changeover, but overall a so so movie. The online movie listings are now over at BowTie’s website, which is minimal and without much flare that links back to Fandango for showtimes.
The Cashier did not know anything about changes to the Email program but someone on the phone did confirm that they are accepting the now ‘old’ Crown coupons. She was courteous enough though. Also, it seems they’ve stopped the personal intros to the movies. If this is a management mandate, it sucks!
Did they play the Dolby Digital Cinema projection trailer before the show? I love the sound voom boom at the end of it just after the CGI generated multicolored leaves sprout.
With the relative short running time, short exclusivity opening and at $28k per sold out show, they could have squeezed a few more shows to sell more tickets. I would have run it starting at 8 am..then every 3 hours up to midnight. Maybe get one of the stars, extras, or production people to introduce the evening shows and/or a short Q&A, to make it even more special.
That is good news…so at $25/ticket X1131 seats X 5 shows; Fri night, two shows each Sat and Sun, it should gross about $141,375! I can forsee the Variety headline now..DREAMGIRLS DOES BOFFO IN GOTHAM! :)
Terrific news! I am just curious about one thing. Does anyone check out theater submissions to make sure that they are legitimate? It seems that there have been countless submissions where little to no information was given about a particular theater except for auditorium capacity (for example) and someone’s faint memory about it being in existence during a decade a long time ago.
The theaters that I frequent are either very near or in shopping centers so parking is not a problem. If it is an event film and I go to Baltimore’s Senator, or in the rarity of rarities, DC’s Uptown, then it is more challenging. At least the Senator has an agreement with the block away Staples to use their lot and there hasn’t really been any problems. The Uptown requires more strategic planning during non-rush hour times. You can case the store front parking, in front of the theater or across the street, but must first drop off your party to wait in line and then wait for the previous show’s patrons to exit their parking space, or if you’re lucky, park in one of the residential spaces that surround the theater. The only negative to the residential parking is if you catch a matinee showing, you must show a parking sticker or risk fines and/or towing.
The description sounds very unique and unlike any AMC I can recall near me. Can someone send a picture link or post? Thanks.
I got last month’s free popcorn Email but nothing this month so far. I do have a free movie pass from last year’s anniversary mailing that had mistakenly had 2007 printed for the expiration date. It should still be good.
As far as the changeover, no one from Customer Service has replied to my query as well. And there still is no official release on their news release section of the website.
On a positive note, they must have installed a newer digital projection unit in 11 as the older (2002) unit had become ‘obsolete’ and was no longer supported, according to the last Customer Service response letter to my previous query.
Who is to say that the ground level seats in a stadium-style auditorium are NOT choice seats? It is for me and my friends that go to the movies. You have the best legroom in the house, still decent sightlines and don’t have that annoying kid or patron behind you kicking your seatback!
If your g-friend’s Aunt was the Producer, I would have asked her to request Managment to cord off a section for your party as a VIP section or for the Press. This has been done at my favorite plex.
I think if you’re going to save multiple seats, there should be more than just ONE in the party to be there. I would never subject my friends or relatives to do that for me, nor would I do that for them. If there are at least three, then you can position 2 of the 3 at either end of the spread of the 9 seats and the third, in the middle. I don’t think it wrong to save seats if they are PAID seats.
On the other hand, if I wanted my favorite seat or section, in the middle to front of the theater, and its in a section of ‘saved’ seats and those people who are saving those seats cannot present the tickets for them, then my ticket would entitle me to any seat in the auditorium, including the ‘saved’ seat(s) since there isn’t a ticket to vouch for that seat. In all honesty, in all the years of cinema attendance, I’ve never felt inclined to do that as I have always found a good seat. If its in a THX-certified auditorium, which is where I like to see most movies anyway, the sound should be good in any seat right?
If you’re dedicated opening-day moviegoer and you HAVE to have your FAVORITE seat or section, than its up to you or someone in your party to ensure that someone is there early enough to save your favorite seat or section. Even if you can’t secure your favorite spot, its not all that bad to sit a little closer or further from the screen. If not, then see another showing.
As far as getting food and into the auditorium, there are ways to do it undetected but let’s save that for another discussion……. :–)
The alternative use of space is an interesting one. Its a additional revenue stream as well. The NA theater near me in Arlington VA has a line up of several arcade games. On one night, several years ago, there was a fight amongst a group of kids over a video game that turned rather violent. Fortunately, I didn’t stick around to see what happened or why, but widespread conversions should proceed with caution. Nowadays, video games are more sophisticated and intense since the old days of Pac Man, Galaxian and gasp Pong that a lot of us grew up on. They can stir up and incite kids predisposed to violence and aggression to act out at the simplest slight and/or remark.