Sunday, November 11, 2012

The "Reel" Truth About The Parkway

The movie theater biz has changed dramatically since I abruptly lost my 12-year gig as The Parkways publicist/programmer on March 22, 2009. For one thing, 35mm prints are pretty much obsolete nowadays, from what I understand. Digital projection is the rule, and The New Parkway, for practical purposes, will be no exception. Due to the high costs of storing and shipping film prints, most major  studios simply are no longer trafficking in that traditional but obsolete format. New releases are commonly distributed in something called DCP - Digital Cinema Projection - while repertory (old) movies are generally projected via DVD or Blu Ray. Technology tends to constantly advance, and if a business wants to survive in a rapidly evolving industry, it adapts or dies. It's that simple. 

Back when I was programming the old Parkway, we showed mainly 35mm prints, and eventually added a DVD player (though hardly a state-of-the-art projector), for locals films, private parties, as well as for our infamous introductory promo videos (remember, I was "the white guy"). 

For my Midnight Lounge/Thrillville cult movie series, I booked prints from both studios with vintage vaults to mine as well as private collectors, often but not always respectful of exhibition rights for these personally procured titles. It became quite challenging to maintain variety, given the limited accessibility of 35mm prints for older titles, particularly more obscure cult flicks that became my specialty. Another ongoing obstacle was the deteriorating condition of the few existing prints. These were the main drawbacks to the 35mm (and 16mm) film formats, along with the exorbitant shipping fees, which often rendered these screenings non-cost-effective, especially since their appeal to mainstream audiences, to paraphrase This Is Spinal Tap, was growing increasingly more "selective." Also, we did not have what was known as "change-overs" at The Parkway, meaning the booth wasn't equipped with two film projectors for a single screen so the projectionist could build up prints "reel to reel" without splicing, a pre-requisite for many popular archival titles. (The Parkway was split into two levels in the 70s, so the second projector was used for the upstairs auditorium.) This fact further limited my programming options. It's amazing I managed to book as many old movies as I did over the years (literally hundreds.)

Early on in my so-called "career," in the spring or summer of 1997, one of the first movies I booked for The Midnight Lounge (which eventually became Thrillville) was a personal favorite called Blood of Dracula (1957), the female flip side to I Was a Teenage Werewolf and I Was a Teenage Frankenstein from the same year. These films, along with 1958's How to Make a Monster, all from the innovative, influential studio American International Pictures, basically invented and inaugurated the whole teenage monster genre that was successfully rebooted in the 90s with Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Anyway, I was lucky to score this rare print, from the now defunct distributor Kit Parker Films, without having reel-to-reel capability. The print was in pretty decent shape, too. The only problem was the projectionist confused reels two and three and built them up out of order. There were only four reels, so basically half the movie was out of order.

Nobody noticed.

We won't be testing the audience's plot awareness at The New Parkway. Cheers.

No comments:

Post a Comment