If you paid $21 bucks a shot to sit inside a historical landmark theatre to watch a new 3-D version of a deservedly popular and brilliantly animated classic, one could be led to believe that you were there with a sense of purpose. After all, you have to negotiate traffic in Los Angeles in some form or another to reach the theatre (more on that in a bit), and once you reach Hollywood Boulevard, you have to make your slow, monotonous way down the street to even reach the theatre, let alone find parking. Unless you are a tourist from parts unknown who has just decided to take in a film, chances are that you have arrived at this particular theatre with a sincere desire to see this film in this scenario, especially given the fact that this 3-D re-release is showing nationwide in, at least, hundreds of theatres.

The movie is Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas, originally released in 1993, and yes, we could have seen the new 3-D version at any number of theatres closer to our home. But, because this is one of my favorite films, and because Jen rocks to the Nth degree, she purchased reserved tickets to see the film in the El Capitan Theatre, a historical landmark building which was revitalized in conjunction with the Disney Company and reopened in 1991. Currently a first-run theatre for Disney films, the El Capitan initially opened in 1926, and of great personal interest to me, the world premiere of Citizen Kane occured there in 1941. Next door to the theatre is a Disney-run soda fountain and souvenir store, and the whole thing sits across the street from the Kodak Theatre, home of the Oscars, and down a bit from Grauman's Chinese.

As I stated yesterday just before I left for this adventure, it is amazing to me that we had yet to make this sojourn into Hollywood. We had been to
Beverly Hills for a television taping, but for two people so steeped in movie arcana that we can see the names of Monty Woolley or Pola Negri on a slab of concrete and know exactly who they are, you'd think this would be the first place we would go. But going into L.A. is not a thing that you want to do everyday unless you are being paid a great deal of money to do so. Plus, conflicting schedules for off hours have also conspired against us, as has a severe deficiency in the amount of traveling pals arriving in this area to influence us into visiting the more touristy areas.

So, yesterday was the time and Hollywood Boulevard was the place. The initial feeling is that the street is an unbelievable dive, but for the two block area where the aforementioned theatres rest, the place has essentially been scrubbed up with some of the cleansing philosophy behind Disney's rerigging of Times Square. But, on the way, one passes an innumerable chain of tattoo parlors, bars, suspect eateries and lingerie/porn shops before getting to the touristy chocolate center. Since our "45 minute" drive turned into the usual two hours of tedious crawling, we ended up parking and then dashing to the theatre just in time to take our seats for the curtain rising. Our reserved tickets, with which we were to be given free popcorn and a soda, allowed each of us to acquire a souvenir bucket with a Nightmare wrap full of crunchy blandness (though we were starving by this point, so it was appreciated) and a plethora of crappy Pepsi products from which to choose. (We are decidedly of the Coke fringe.) Again, thirst was an issue, so we made the best of it, Jen choosing a bottle of lemonade and I a generic Pepsi. (Did I mention that our VIP pass did not gain us iced beverages, merely refrigerated bottles?)

Our seats were in the balcony, but I barely noticed the journey to the seats as my gaze was averted by the beauty of the decor in the palace, gilt and golden in a mock Indian-style, with the side boxes filled in with a pair of elaborate Nightmare-inspired diorama. A costumed figure at the organ in front of the stage played This is Halloween to the delight of the patronage, and it is no exaggeration to say that every seat in the house was filled by the time of the curtain's rising, which was mere seconds away. A special short introduction to Disney 3-D allowed everyone time to get their glasses in place, which, sadly, were not marked for the event in any way except on the plastic bag in which they were handed out. (It would have been cool for the name of the flick to appear on one of the arms or some such place, but, oh well...) Before the film proper could proceed, the audience was treated to a 3-D rendition of Pixar's Knick Knack, a charming and light concoction about a globe-bound snowman's battle to free himself for the love of a lovely lady knick-knack sunbather. It's success as a 3-D trifle even made Jen wonder aloud if it was originally shot in 3-D, so sumptuous was some of the action.

Nightmare, on the other hand, as a 3-D subject, only succeeded partially. Its rendering into the format only pointed out how obviously it was not intended for 3-D. This is not to say that it detracted from the film at all -- it didn't -- but it is quite clear from the staging in most of the scenes how 3-D effects were the furthest thing from Henry Selick's and Tim Burton's minds. Things that would naturally pop out at the audience in the course of a planned 3-D film (and there are potentially a great many of these moments in Nightmare) tend to veer off to the side or disappear without fulfilling the promise they could have had in the format. That said, many scenes were definitely given a Viewmastery richness and deepness that the previous version lacked, though again, the effect is merely fleeting and trivial. But the experience was special enough for me to thank Jen deeply for this finally fulfilled portion of my birthday booty.

But what of the audience surrounding us? Why were they there. From the floor below, I could laughter and joy from the obviously enraptured crowd, but somehow, in a special reserved VIP section of the balcony, where people paid extra money to sit, we somehow ended up with people who really didn't seem to want to be there. To my left was a family of four, or what seemed to be a family of four, who chatted amongst themselves for the entire film. If you are going to pay over 80 dollars to see a film, and especially a musical at that, don't you think that you would like to friggin' hear the goddamn film? These people were talking like they were in the crowd for the matinee-priced showing of the latest Hilary Duff crapfest (and the father clearly was out of his element, being twitchy and not overly concerned with events upon the screen). But, at least the Chatty Family were keeping fairly quiet and to themselves despite their slight transgression upon my ears. The teenybopper girls next to Jen were not so quiet -- she said they seemed to be there for a birthday party -- and the girl directly to her right apparently had zero interest in the movie, being there only because her friends were. She kept trying to convince herself that she was having a good time, and vocally, by repeating the mantra of "That's funny" over and over every time something that was quite obviously funny to the rest of the crowd was speaking on the screen.

Jen and I knew why we there, but what about these people? WHY is it that some people can't fucking shut up during a goddamn movie? It's bad enough the world has been taken over by people who just have to talk on their phones in the middle of a film, and will get up and shuffle past you, sometimes forcing you to get up during the course of action on the screen (and this is them being polite and considerate of their phone behavior -- some of them just sit squarely in their seat and chat). But since when did the movie theatre become everybody's goddamn living room? I'm OK with genuine reaction to the film, such as a scream from an onscreen jolt or an innocent child's goofy questioning of the movie, but that's just about it. Perhaps we should be less concerned with math scores in this country, and a little more concerned with fucking etiquette.

Enough ranting, though... the remainder of our evening was spent first by determining whether or not it was worth it to wait for a seat in the Disney Soda Fountain (we decided against it, though we will do it next time) and whether we should see another film while we were on the boulevard (again, we decided against it). As we left the theatre, a girl asked us if we wanted a free poster, and I said "No" when I noticed it was for The Santa Clause 3. As I passed her, I saw that the other side was actually a special poster for the event we were leaving, so luckily Jen grabbed one. We loped down to Grauman's to take a long, nostalgic glimpse at the concrete autographs, and then took some time to goof on the horrible costumes of the character-draped street people who hornswoggle tourists out of money for bad pictures. (Jen said the Spider-Man guy obviously had read the primer on "How to Stand Like a Super-Hero", but the effect was that he just looked like a creepy ponce in long underwear.)

Some tall weird guy in a lot of multi-zippered leather, who may have been in costume but we weren't really sure, grabbed Jen by the chin and made a quick kiss-kiss noise before walking off through the crowd. Since he was standing near Pinhead, I wasn't sure whether he was trying badly to be a Cenobite, or was just some perv in multi-zippered leather. (Probably the latter.) We were incredibly hungry, but the food court options didn't appeal to us in the mall area (plus, the lines were all at least twenty people deep, and the couple that weren't, well, we worried about "why" they weren't twenty people deep.) On our way back to the car, we had to exit back through the Kodak Theatre entrance, so we took some time to check out where we would be attending the Oscars in a couple of years (heh...) and then split.

The car ride back? We left at seven and arrived 2 1/2 hours later near our home, famished and thirsty and wondering where all the goddamn traffic had come from on a Saturday night. We had rolled along at ten miles an hour for well over half that time, and it is no surprise that the food we picked up before hitting the homestead was gone in no time, some of it well before home. The experience? Despite the adversity of the traffic both ways, the talking girl and the family, the ungainly welding of film techniques, and the lack of food for half the day (luckily, I had fasted for over 18 hours the day previous), I still had a ball the entire way. It's called adventure, and even with all the bumps in the road, I wouldn't have it any other way.

One question, and this one is on behalf of Jen --- Disneyland carries Coke and the Soda Fountain right next door to the El Capitan is a Coke place. So, why does the El Capitan Theatre, owned by friggin' Disney, only stock Pepsi?

Crap, now I want my money back -- and I didn't even spend any...


Matt Fosberg said…
Congrats on seeing the film!

It sounds like it was a great time, especially when you have something to bitch about, and I mean that in an entirely positive way...

EggOfTheDead said…
Twenty years ago, nineteen years old, I lived on that stretch of Hollywood Blvd (1/2 block up on Sycamore, 1 1/2 blocks west of Mann's Chinese.) Good think I was young, resilient and really, really stupid! It was actually sorta fun :-)

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