Last week I listed my five worst theatrical experiences of 2007. It was a difficult thing to do, because as a former proud and happy employee of the theater industry, and as a huge supporter of going to the movies over home viewing, I hated to showcase cinemas and exhibition formats in a bad light. But how else to encourage improvements in movie going if not by pointing out unsatisfactory experiences? Part of my interest in the theater industry has always been to help make improvements where needed, whether it was back when I worked as a theater manager or now when I merely comment on theater practice and procedure. I not only want people to go to the movies; I want them to enjoy going to the movies as much as possible.
I've gone to a great number of movies over the past year, some of which were free and some of which cost too much, and aside from those five experiences listed last week and a few others that were more affected by minor or nitpicky problems. Otherwise I've had a lot of fun going to the movies in 2007. I've seen old movies on the big screen, new movies as they premiered, I've sat among other critics in comfy yet popcorn-lacking press screenings and most enjoyably I've sat with regular audiences in regular cinemas. It's difficult to pick the best kind of theatrical experience, but it wasn't too hard to pinpoint five specific experiences that stood out in my mind as being the best of my theatrical experience in 2007.
Theatrical Experiences of 2007 Part II: The Best
The Darjeeling Limited at Cerrito Speakeasy Theater, El Cerrito, CA -- 12/26/07
Everyone always tells me I have to experience the famed Alamo Drafthouse(s), but I feel the Speakeasy cinemas are probably just as cool. And until or if I experience better, the Speakeasy in El Cerrito is my new favorite place to see a movie. Unfortunately, it's across the country from where I live. It combines three of my favorite things: great movies, restored old cinemas and beer. Also the owners are delightful, the chairs and couches are comfy, they often show old movies, some of which are free, and the popcorn is delicious. I'd already seen The Darjeeling Limited once, but I think it was a better experience this second time, mainly due to the more chill atmosphere in which it was presented. Most important: I'm not that enthusiastic about major chains charging extra for relaxed, living-room-style viewing with wait service (I will be writing about this problem soon), but when it's only $6, like at the Speakeasy (or 2 for $6, as it is there on Wednesday nights), it's absolutely perfect. I wish I could fly back in two weeks to check out The Maltese Falcon there.