Things Change…

Features
by Leonard Maltin
July 16, 2012 1:00 AM
11 Comments
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The Paul Davis designed image, for Renoir’s classic 'Grand Illusion', adorns the 17-foot-wide panels that make up the Laemmle Theatres' Royal marquee.
I don’t take to change readily or easily. In recent weeks we’ve lost several local establishments in my area of Los Angeles: a couple of longtime neighborhood restaurants and a wonderful independent bookstore. It hurts. Meanwhile, on the other side of town, Laemmle Theatres has announced the imminent demise of its distinctive marquee at the Royal Theatre on Santa Monica Boulevard. 

The specialty theater chain’s president, Greg Laemmle, said, “Financially, it is just too difficult to make a go of it with a single screen theatre. But in addition to this, having three screens instead of just one will give us more flexibility in opening and extending runs on the more ‘artistic’ films which Los Angeles audiences have come to expect at the Royal. As for the marquee, the old marquee is great, and we’re proud to see it graced with Paul Davis’ Grand Illusion images. But the cost of creating custom marquee panels is prohibitive, especially for some of the small, independent distributors whose films we regularly show here. Distributors often end up spending more on the marquee panels than they do on display advertising. That just doesn't make sense. And from an architectural standpoint, we have photos of the theatre from the 40's (and before) which show the theatre (then named the Rialto) with a smaller, square marquee with a vertical blade sign. We believe that something like this will be more in keeping with the theatre's original Neo-Classic architecture."

All of this does make sense, of course, but it’s still another sign (no pun intended) of change in the air. Last December, Laemmle Theatres opened its spacious, up-to-date NoHo 7 complex in North Hollywood, near my neck of the woods, and this too signals a sea change: there are no 35mm projectors in the complex. Greg Laemmle, who genuinely cares about movies (and proves it week after week, booking and supporting independent films, documentaries and foreign imports), pointed out something to me that I’d never thought about in all the discussion of digital presentation. Not only is there no longer a need for projectionists: there’s no need for projection booths! If there are no prints to stack and store, no reels to rewind, and no splices to make, the space is no longer necessary.

How can there be a movie theater without a projection booth and a beam of light emanating from it, through a square pane of glass? Mark that as one more facet of the moviegoing experience that’s fading fast. Going, going, gone.

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11 Comments

  • Jack Murphy | July 21, 2012 5:39 PMReply

    I was fortunate enough to tour the new Laemmle NoHo 7 theatre in North Hollyood with Greg Laemmle just after it opened in December. We went upstairs to see the projection booth and the new digital projectors. As expected in a multiplex, the booth served 5 of the theatres with one large meandering room. I exclaimed, "Wow this projection room is huge" and Greg said "Well we designed it to accomidate 35mm projection". Having visited this theatre many times since as a movie patron, I can tell you that the digital projection and sound are perfect and the auditoriums themselves are very comfortable. During one of my early visits, one of the staff said to me "It's weird having no one up there." A great place to see new Hollywood blockbuster films, and quality foreign and independent films. Great work Laemmles.

  • Kathleen Corey | July 16, 2012 9:12 PMReply

    The Royal Theatre in West L.A. was probably the place where I first discovered foreign and art films, when I was in my young teenage years. Throughout high school, college and beyond I went back there again and again from my home near Santa Monica, because it was the only theatre anywhere close that consistently had that the really special films, and sometimes, a very special experience just waiting in line... In 1966 I went to see Romeo and Juliet, with Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting. To my breathless disbelief, who was waiting to buy tickets right in front of me in line, but the young Ryan O'Neal and his co-star and love from the TV series Peyton Place, Leigh Taylor-Young! They were such an unbelievably beautiful couple, especially because they were so young and fresh-faced (this was four years before Love Story). I'll never forget that night -- so much romance -- and to this day, I couldn't tell you which was the most breath-taking couple, the one on the screen or the ones who I stood next to in line. I found Leonard Maltin's blog post above, "Things Change...", comforting though, that the Royal will continue to offer the same caliber films. What concerns me is what the new marquee will look like -- they certainly don't make them like they used to, in all their Hollywood glamor.

  • Norm | July 16, 2012 7:50 PMReply

    From the demise of Panavision cameras to the erasure of film projection, times are a changin, in multiple directions.. Et Tu Brute...

  • mike schlesinger | July 16, 2012 6:24 PMReply

    Not to mention having that huge, beautiful auditorium cut up into three small ones (though I do understand the economics of the decision).

  • Greg Ehrbar | July 16, 2012 4:50 PMReply

    Just when you think that you know where you stand
    You hold the world in your hand
    Just when you're sure of a dream that you've planned
    That's when the scenery changes
    It changes.

    Just when you're sure that you know all the facts
    You hold the whole ball of wax
    You've got it made, you can start to relax
    That's when your world rearranges
    And changes.

    - Richard & Robert Sherman, "Snoopy, Come Home"

  • DBenson | July 16, 2012 4:04 PMReply

    I can easily imagine revival houses playing simulated projector noises just before and even during old features, just some restaurants have fake chickens eternally rotating over fake fires.

  • Herb Stratford | July 16, 2012 11:48 AMReply

    There will always be a place for film...just like vinyl and its recent comeback....have faith!

  • Karen | July 16, 2012 8:23 AMReply

    I completely understand the mournful tone of this journal entry. The loss of movie projection prints to digital is such a huge mistake, and feeling helpless about it gives one an iota of what it must have felt like long ago to the theater owners who had to install sound when silent movies changed over. But I also think the haste in going digital will come back to bite in terms of preservation; its already an issue because so-called digital technology keeps changing --- the format is unstable and can't be depended upon.

  • Daniel Delago | July 16, 2012 7:01 AMReply

    "For the times they are a-changin." - Bob Dylan

  • Mikal | July 16, 2012 3:08 AMReply

    Hollywood trying to get rid of film in exchange for digital because it's "cheaper" is akin to book publishing companies burning all print books because digital distribution is cheaper. Only film looks like film. Digital looks like digital.

  • Steve DeVorkin | July 16, 2012 2:56 AMReply

    To paraphrase Billy Wilder:

    No Kodak? No more Kodak film.

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