Saturday, October 18, 2008

Conversations Overheard in a Public Restroom

The title of this post sounds like a John Cassavetes film. "They are having a Cassavetes retrospective at the Roxie next month. They are screening A Woman Under the Influence, The Killing of a Chinese Bookie and Conversations Overheard in a Public Restroom."

Anyway, during one of the Dead Channels screenings, I went to the bathroom during the film. The men's room at the Roxie is adjacent to the sidewalk and there is a small window high on the wall that is left open. As I was doing my business, I heard festival founder Bruce Fletcher outside on the sidewalk. He was speaking to what seemed to be a couple that was scanning the film posters or festival guide. Fletcher was engaging them in small talk about his festival when they mentioned they attend Noir City every year at the Castro Theater. BTW, Noir City will be January 23 to February 1, 2009 at the Castro.

When Fletcher heard this, he told the couple that the Castro Theater was turning into a "regular theater" starting November 1. That jolted me as I've heard that the Castro is not doing so well financially and some of the screenings I've been to have been sparsely attended. I recalled this SF Chronicle article on fading rep houses from February.

"Regular theater" could mean many things but I interpreted Fletcher's statement to mean that the Castro was going to show traditional cineplex offerings like they did this summer with Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. I thought the Castro was switching programming to shore up finances but that didn't really add up. My observation is the that Castro packs them in for film festival, special film events (like Romeo and Juliet or Midnite for Maniacs) and various live events like the annual San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus performance every December.

Furthermore, there are a lot of Hollywood films that bomb at the box office so unless the Castro could program a hit like Indiana Jones every time, why not just stick with the current model and avoid the public outcry if they tried to change programming?

According to the Castro's calendar, nothing seems amiss starting November 1. November is filed with Tony Curtis films, a Bette Davis double feature, the revival of Lola Mont├Ęs and the 2008 San Francisco International South Asian Film Festival (otherwise known as the Third I).

Then I noticed that the Castro is screening Milk with Sean Penn for first 23 days of December but followed by a Sing Along Sound of Music and a Joy Behar performance on New Year's Eve. Knowing the Castro is hosting Noir City for the last nine days in January, it would seem that the Castro is not turning into a "regular theater."

Still the extended Milk run (pun intended) is identical to the programming of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull earlier this year. Given the programming to date, the Chronicle article, the declining movie audience and general economic conditions, maybe the Castro is planning a change in programming. Only the future will tell.

For my own part, I enjoy the Castro programming. Festival screenings excluded, I see more films at the Castro than any other theater. Including film festivals, I probably see more films at the Roxie because SF IndieFest and Dead Channels use their facilities primarily.

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Speaking of IndieFest, their documentary film festival (DocFest) opened last night at the Roxie. It runs until October 30 at the Roxie and then October 31 to November 6 at the Shattuck Cinema in Berkeley (within walking distance of the Downtown Berkeley BART). I wasn't sure if I was going to buy a festival pass but I was in Las Vegas recently and hit a 200 to 1 jackpot on a video poker machine at the airport. I spent the winnings on a DocFest pass.

A few films that interest me:

Toots - a film about New York club owner Toots Shor. This film screened at the SF International Film Festival earlier this year.

Bigfoot: A Beast on the Run - I'm Sasquatch believer or at least I want to believe.

Neshoba - a modern day exploration of a Klansman prosecuted for the 1964 Mississippi Burning murders.

Fatman Walking - a 400 pound man decides to walk from San Diego to New York.

Jump - chronicles five teams pursuing the World Jump Rope Championship.

Over My Dad's Body - Israeli woman investigates her father's claim that her uncle is a Soviet undercover spy in Israel.

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