Sunday, November 2, 2014

Trips to Los Gatos & Livermore

In March, I wrote about some Bay Area movie theaters I wanted to visit.  In October, I was able to visit two of them.

I saw Gone Girl at the Los Gatos Theater in Los Gatos and Pride at the Vine Cinema & Alehouse in Livermore.

Before I forget, I also mentioned that I went to the Magick Lantern Theater in Pt. Richmond in March.  I signed up to their email distribution list and realized recently that I have not received their weekly email for sometime.  I checked their website and was greeted with this message:  "The Magick Lantern is closed we anticipate re-opening very soon under different and better circumstances! If you're on our email list, we'll keep you posted on all the details!"  The last email I received from them was for films screening September 19-21.

I only visited the Magick Lantern once.  I wasn't particularly impressed.  It had the look and feel of a high school A/V clubhouse.  I think it only operated 3 or 4 days per week; perhaps 6 to 8 screenings per week.  I certainly didn't want the theater to close but I'm not that surprised that it did.  In fact, I'm surprised it lasted for 20+ months.  Even if Magick Lantern had impressed me, it was inconveniently located for me to make frequent visits.  I wish Ross Woodbury (the owner & operator of the Magick Lantern) well.

Gone Girl starring Ben Affleck & Rosamund Pike; directed by David Fincher; (2014) - Official Website
Pride starring Ben Schnetzer; with Bill Nighy, Dominic West, Imelda Staunton & Paddy Considine; directed by Matthew Warchus; (2014) - Official Website


I made a dedicated trip to Los Gatos to see Gone Girl.  It was playing at several theaters closer to me but I wanted to see the Los Gatos Theater.  Actually, I had never been to Los Gatos so I wanted to see the town of Los Gatos.  The theater is located in Downtown Los Gatos.  I was running late so I was not able to stop in any of the shops.  The only store I do recall is the Sierra Toy Soldier Company a few doors down from the theater.  I wish I had time to stop in there but as I said, I was running late and by the time the film ended, all the stores were closed.

The Los Gatos Theater consists of two screening rooms.  The larger auditorium is on the first floor and has a balcony.  I don't recall what was playing in the auditorium.  I peeked in after Gone Girl and it was empty.  The auditorium looks has traditional theater seating and can seat a few hundred.

The second screening room has a lounge type design.  It is located on the second floor.  There are large photos of Hollywood Golden Age movie stars on the wall.  There is a small kitchenette area in the back corner and bar tables in the other corner.  The seating is shaped like a check mark.  Most of the seats are directly facing the screen but on the left side of the room there is a pillar.  The rows angle out slightly on the other side of the pillar such that the seats on that side are not directly facing the screen.  The seats are recliners.  There is a seating capacity of 40+ if you include the bar tables.  There is a large area to stand behind the back row if SRO is needed.  This is where I saw Gone Girl.

I was impressed with the Los Gatos Theater.  It is quite a drive for me and I would think it would take three hours (one-way) to get there via public transit.  I don't think I will be going there often but it is certainly worth a stop if I am in the area.  I would like to window shop the area around the theater if I return.


I work in San Francisco and do not have to travel much for work.  Recently I spent two days in the Tri-Valley for work and decided to take advantage of opportunity to stop in at the Vine Cinema in Livermore.  I had never been to Livermore before.

The Vine is located in Downtown Livermore which is laid out in a number and letter street grid.  The Vine is at the corner of 1st and O.  Actually, it is South O Street with the railroad tracks serving as Livermore's Mason-Dixon line.

The theater was built in the 1950s but it reminds me a lot of the Stonetown Cinema in San Francisco which was built in the early 1970s.  It's obvious that the theater was built as one large auditorium and has been divided into two long, narrow auditoriums.  You can see the support beams on the walls and ceilings so you can tell immediately if you are in the left half of the original auditorium or the right half.  In its original incarnation, I would say the Vine was comparable in size to the Castro Theater less its balcony.  I couldn't tell if there was a balcony in the original design of the Vine but there was no visible access to an upstairs area.

The Vine is next to the Zephyr Grill & Bar.  The Vine has traditional movie theater concessions along with beer on tap and wine by the glass.  I suspect they have an arrangement with the Zephyr for food service.  Pizza, hamburgers and salads were on the menu.  I ordered a Caesar salad which was less than memorable.  The food is brought to your seat.

The auditorium has several rows of traditional theater seating but also several tables dispersed throughout.  The tables have been laminated with movie posters.  There were also a few rows of couches and love seats.

I wasn't as impressed with the Vine as I was by the Los Gatos.  Perhaps that's because Livermore isn't as well-heeled as Los Gatos.  The Vine was remodeled in 2009 into its current setup whereas as the Los Gatos is just over six months from its restoration so it still has the new car smell.

I doubt I'll return to either theater very often due to this travel distances involved.


As for the films...

Gone Girl was number one at the box office for two consecutive weeks and has grossed over $120 million in four weeks.  I won't write much about it as it has been well reviewed.  I am a fan of director David Fincher's work (dating back to Seven & Fight Club).  I recommend Gone Girl.  Rosamund Pike is outstanding and shows quite a bit of acting range.  The plot is a shamelessly contrived and the ending didn't quite mesh with the 2+ hours of film leading up to it but Gone Girl is a fun ride.

As I get older, I have a harder time understanding English as spoken by our cousins across the pond. At times, I could not understand the actors in Pride (set in London & Wales of the 1980s) due to their accents.  That didn't detract much from the plot which is based on historical (some of which I vaguely remember).  In the mid-1980s, coal miners in the UK went on strike; the strike lasted about one year.  This was one incident in the strife which marked Margaret Thatcher's time as Prime Minister.

A group of gay activists in London raise money in support of the coal miners.  They visit a Welsh mining town to formally donate the money and are received with hostility for the most part.  A few open minds salvage the relationship until someone leaks the story to the press.  One must recall that during this era of AIDS, anti-homosexual behavior was more overt.  Anyway, the a vote is taken and the coal miner's union decides to disassociate itself from the gay activists.

I wasn't too impressed Pride.  It was often predictable and cliched.  I read that it received a standing ovation at this year's Cannes Film Festival.  It surprises me that it was even accepted at Cannes.  The events depicted are historic and important but the film feels more like a series a comedy sketches.  That's a little unfair because many of the actors shine in certain scenes.  Paddy Considine has a great scene as the union leader who is definitely out of his element in London drag queen bar.  Bill Nighy also has a few strong scenes as the poet/historian/tragic coal miner.

I laughed at some of the scenes in Pride but overall the sum of the parts was less than the whole.

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