An Intensely Personal Top Five Movie Theaters List
In concert with the upscale dames at Scarlett Cinema, I'm proffering a mid-year top five list of my own idiosyncratic choosing....of my favorite movie theaters. Cleanliness, screen size, and Dolby-osity are not under consideration, the palaces below are only the murky spaces that have had the most impact on my fragile psyche, now in its 27th year.
1. North Park Theatre, 1428 Hertel Avenue, Buffalo, NY. (photo above)
Most importantly, there's the ticket booth. A smooth cylinder for one rocketed down into the middle of the lobby. Inhabited alternately by a pudgy smiler with a valiant combover or an elderly gent who seems nice enough. The bathroom's upstairs and to the left, with man-sized chinked urinals against the right wall (I think). I remember them being taller than normal, 6 ft. maybe. Or is it that I haven't visited in a few years and my impressionable childhood is telling tall tales? I need to go back and check. I saw Rear Window for the first time there, when the restoration was touring back in 2000 (I believe). Try to make out the painting on the ceiling. It's a challenge, covered as it is in years 88 years of sneezes. It looked like there were some angels. Maybe some horses. A sense of mystery, history, sweat. The concessions stand almost inside the theatre itself. My Mom told me there would be a restoration of the place soon. I think that was a decade ago. I want to go back as soon as possible, but I think I'll wait until Mamma Mia passes through.
2. Amherst Theatre, 3500 Main St., Buffalo, NY.
Sensing a pattern? Part of the Dipson chain of art-house theaters that also includes the North Park, the Amherst Theater is where I worked in both high-school and the first few summer years of college. Where the North Park is an old palace, the Amherst is a puny multiplex, with two munchkin theaters and one regular sized schmo. In any case it's beautiful: red velvet ropes and "real" buttered popcorn and red paislied carpet and generic candies. We didn't have Sour Patch Kids. We had Sour Gummie Bears, or something like that. Pathetic and delicious. All of my friends saw free movies and ate free popcorn. I tried to direct a gorgeous co-ed to the seat adjoining theirs for the big Royal Tenenbaums premiere, but no dice. Before I worked there, I had my first official date (Taxi Driver) which ended awkwardly. My Dad took me to see the Touch of Evil restoration (1999?) there, which kicked off my Welles obsession, and I forced him and my uncle to see In The Mood For Love when it opened. I felt cool, in the know. My boss was a delightful fuck-up who lent me some Tom Waits albums (Blue Valentine was one) and let us have Nerf wars during breaks. Then he got fired and I quit soon after. My Big Fat Greek Wedding played for what seemed like an entire year.
3. Film Forum, 209 W. Houston St., New York, NY
It smells sometimes. They haven't heard of sightlines. I've also seen more movies there than at any other theater in NYC combined. Double bills of rare noirs, rare musicals, rare everything. Oh, and one night I took a girl to see a show. Something called Hold That Co-Ed from 1938, part of the B-Musical series a year back. John Barrymore acts insane while running for the Senate, football is involved. I married the girl, we still go to Film Forum, it still smells.
4. Lecture Hall 6, Binghamton University, Binghamton, NY
Behind the trees there, it's Lecture Hall 6. Uncomfortable plastic chairs all welded together so one person's seat adjustments annoys all. Every semester the Harpur Film Series commenced in this unpleasant room. Every Saturday it was something intriguing - the only place to catch international cinema for miles around. The local arthouse burnt down - the result of an ill-fated BYOB policy. I was initiated into the Dardennes with Rosetta, and floored by Godard's Eloge de l'Amour. (the former still wows, the latter, I'm not so sure).
5. My Old Living Room, 203 Washington Hwy. Buffalo, NY.
Is this cheating? Probably. But it's more fun than writing about Lincoln Center. Anyway....just think of clutter. Unlabeled VHS tapes of Little League games and birthday parties abut my growing Turner Classic Movies library. Is that me striking out or von Sternberg's Shanghai Express? Hard to say, as each have their own romantic poetry - Dietrich's inscrutable face is certainly more ambiguous than my adolescent poutings, but not by much. L.A. Confidential was my first DVD. It looked great. I had my friends over to watch Ronin approximately 54 times. Eventually we broke it down shot-by-shot, Bordwell style, focusing on our much beloved "window scene", of DeNiro exhaling smoke while lowering a car window. Masculine posturing never looked so sharp!