Sunday, May 30, 2010

Trip to the Texas Theatre

I still have some films to catch-up on blogwise, but I'm going to skip ahead to talk about the cool cinematic experience I had earlier today.

As a subscriber to the Dallas Film Society's newsletter I am occasionally apprised of events I didn't know about. Crazy, huh? As much time as I spend online with film related events you would think nothing could get by me, but it does. According to the most recent e-mail from them the historic Texas Theatre in Oak Cliff had a summer movie series running. I was beyond stoked.

For those who don't know about the location it was the first Dallas theater to have air-conditioning and was built in 1931 and opened by Howard Hughes. This enjoyed plenty of first run screenings until an afternoon in November of 1963 when during a screening of Burt Topper's War is Hell Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested in his seat for the assassination of JFK. More about the theater can be read here on the Texas Theatre's website.

According to the website the film series was going to end next week, not much of a summer series (but more on that later), so I knew I better see something soon. the schedule has Latin films on Sundays with English subtitles and the next one was going to be Los cronocrímenes (Timecrimes). This film was made in 2007 by Nacho Vigalondo and deals with time travel. I have heard nothing but good things so I knew this would be a great film to see in such a great venue. More on the film in a bit...

When we arrived at the theatre I was happy to get parking on the street nearby, but soon saddened because I left my camera at home. So please excuse the lower quality of my iPhone. As you can see from the vintage shot above the new marquee is a little different, but an homage to the original. Better than nothing, in my opinion. We walked in and the lobby is just a white shell. I know they are still in the process of renovation so I didn't think much of it. After looking around a bit I noticed this odd sight on left after you walk through the lobby doors.

Evidently in 1964 the original, beautiful architecture leading up to the balcony was covered up by white plaster/stucco. Who the hell thought this was a good idea?! Attendance was down because of the stigma associated with JFK's death in Dallas and the capture of his alleged killer in the theatre, but what about replacing a lovely lobby with an all white cavern was going to help? In this cross section you can see everything is still under the plaster. I'm not sure if there are plans to rip out and try to refurbish the original look because I didn't want to keep bugging those in charge with my lame questions. I'm sure much of it is in very bad shape by now, but it would be really cool.

My next big question was if the films were on 35mm or DVD. I didn't figure they would have actual film prints and I was right. There is a rather old 35mm projector upstairs but it doesn't work at the moment. They are hoping to get enough money needed for the repairs and get it running again. I really wanted to check out the projection booth, and the upstairs, but one of the guys told me he wasn't allowed to take me up there. Hopefully in the future I'll be able to talk him into it. If I do I'll be sure to have my camera that day.

One bit of good news to come from the trip is they ARE doing films all summer long! Soon the expanded schedule will be up on the website as well as their Facebook page. They also told me that "some girl" was going to be showing "weird videos" of some kind on Wednesdays soon. Of course it would have to conflict with our weekly Horror Movie Night, but we might have to take a field trip at least once.

Watching the film was nothing too special. The screen wasn't too big, but the sound was decent. I sat near the back because I wanted to sit around the area Oswald did (forgot to look-up exactly where before we went, but I was fairly close). The film itself was supposed be in Spanish, but the DVD started playing the dubbed version and I guess they didn't want to stop and start over after they realized the problem. It was a little annoying, but we have the shiteous Magnet distribution company to thank. Yes, this is the same company who screwed with the subtitles on the initial Let the Right One In release. For people who deal in quite a few foreign films why would they think the fans would want to watch it dubbed? We want to watch it with subtitles in the original language to get the full performance of the actors onscreen. Stop having your discs default to the dubbed version! Bah!

Aside from these few gripes, and the jerk who kept opening his phone a few rows up and to the right, the film was absolutely terrific. It's the type of film to not spell everything out, leave some questions and give you the chance to interpret things for yourself. I love that! This shows downsides to time travel and makes it less glamorous than a film like Back to the Future and much more realistic. Can't really get into too much of the specifics without discussing how the film unfolds. Very small cast and a very ambitious idea that I can't wait to revisit. Without the dubbing, of course.

All in all I had a great time watching a terrific film and geeking out over the awesome location. Normally going to a public exhibition of a DVD is not my thing, since I'd rather see film and replicate the original exhibition as much as possible, but I highly recommend checking out the Texas Theatre and going to as much as you can. The more money this group can get, from the $5 donation for admittance and buying concessions, the more work can be done on the theatre itself and with further programming. Most of the time Dallas moviegoers are pretty lame, but with the cheap ticket price here we can turn that around and bring a landmark back and see some great films along the way.


One more thing to mention. They also host art shows and other live events at this location so there are pieces hanging around. One of the ones I really dug is behind the concession area. Check out this three part piece on Frankenstein's Monster. Sweet!

(click image for full size)


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