Last week here, I wrote a long post about a screening I attended Tuesday evening at the New Beverly Cinema here in Los Angeles. Some who were there cheered what I wrote. Some who weren't there but love the place thought I'd been way too hard on them. (Some in the latter group complained that I'd called it the "Beverly Cinema" when its actual name is the "New Beverly Cinema." I'm not sure why that matters but the name on its marquee is "Beverly Cinema." So if they can get it wrong up there, I can get it wrong here.) I also heard from the proprietor of the theater who understandably thought I'd been unfair to them. Upon reflection and after talking with my friend Josh Olson — an acclaimed screenwriter and champion of the New Beverly, I'm willing to admit I was. On some points.
For instance, I took issue with those who argue as if a 35mm print is always preferable to digital projection. I think I'm right about that but it was irrelevant to my report on that event because the print they screened of The Comic was quite decent. I should have mentioned that. I've seen some pretty terrible 35mm prints in revival houses but not the (New) Beverly Cinema.
I said that the three guests — Carl Reiner, Dick Van Dyke and Michele Lee — walked out before the film was over. I was misinformed by someone there that night. Only Mr. Van Dyke and his wife left early. Mr. Reiner and Ms. Lee apparently stayed until just before the end credits, then departed…I'm guessing to avoid being inundated again by autograph-seekers. (I've made some changes in the original post to reflect these things.)
Something I should mention here: Most celebrities do not mind and are sometimes quite flattered to sign autographs. The only exceptions I've seen lately are those who because of the Collector Show circuit make some much-desired bucks selling their John Hancocks. Those folks usually do mind doing it for free. For the rest, like the guests that evening, it's a matter of when and how many. There are moments when it's awkward, moments when they feel claustrophobic and under assault. Also, they're all aware that the guy with twenty photos he wants signed might be a devout fan but is more likely just demanding merchandise he can sell on eBay. Even if you're willing to sign for him, he's usually muscling aside real fans who want but one or seek to say hello. So suddenly, you're dealing with crowd control and twenty people trying to get your attention all at once and it can be quite overwhelming. I once saw a rather big star run literally screaming out of an event because he couldn't deal with a chaotic autograph situation…and he was charging for his signature.
Also, I said the guests at the New Beverly that night weren't even offered refreshments and I was misinformed on that…so consider that retracted with my apology. And I did not mean to suggest that a theater that wasn't built with space for a green room should make one magically appear. But when you have limitations to your facilities, someone needs to figure out a way around them. I've hosted hundreds of panels and public events. There are often problems with getting the guests there and on stage and off and making sure they can be heard, etc. You need to prepare and improvise and find workarounds…and there usually are some.
The owner of the theater informs me that contrary to what is often reported and what I said, Quentin Tarantino has no proprietary interest in the New Beverly Cinema itself. He's their landlord. When the theater faced the prospect of eviction, Mr. Tarantino purchased the real estate there so they wouldn't be evicted. Good for him, good for them.
I stand by my characterization of last Tuesday evening there but I should have noted that it was surely an exception to the norm, one the theater must regret. The New Beverly Cinema is much-loved by local film buffs and with good reason. The experience of sitting in a theater, watching a classic motion picture on a bigger-than-your-Samsung-at-home screen is a fading experience in this Blu-Ray era and I should be championing any place that even attempts it. We should all be. I'm not going to hold one unfortunate incident against them…especially because the movie they showed that night was so darned good.