Sundance Showing Mainstream Movies

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uwstudent
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Re: Sundance Showing Mainstream Movies

Postby uwstudent » Wed May 17, 2017 10:44 am

Westgate was okay. Back in the 90's my go to place for indie films was the old Majestic downtown. It had uncomfortable seats, the floorboards creaked, the air conditioner rattled and the sound system crackled but I loved it. Now this is the way to see a movie. You can keep your ultrascreen-surroundsound-recliners-popcornthatwillgiveyouacoronary theaters. If your butt doesn't go numb after a 2 1/2 hour art film then your not watching movies.

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Re: Sundance Showing Mainstream Movies

Postby PaleoLiberal » Wed May 17, 2017 11:42 am

I was wrong in an earlier post. It wasn't the Orpheum that showed the artsy movies, it was the Majestic. I went there once with my wife, and she hated it. Hard to hear the movie.

I miss living in the Village in NYC, where i had two artsy theaters within walking distance. One a block away on 13th street, the other was a newer, trendier place that had a cafe in the theater. On Houston street right off Broadway, so about a 15-20 min walk from my old apartment. This place was fancy with the cafe' in the theater, but the ticket prices were the same. It bothered me that Sundance was charging the theater goers extra for the right to walk through their little cafe', which is why I never went there.

Of course, Greenwich Village, esp. the part where I lived, had more theaters than you could shake a stick at. They kept opening up multiplex after multiplex after multiplex, and some were a few blocks north of the Village, but still under 20 st. That meant within a 5-10 minute walk, I had several dozen screens, with even more if I were willing to walk 15-20 minutes. First run big name Hollywood films were often in multiple locations, so never more than a 5-10 minute walk. Indie films I might have to walk as far as 20 minutes, or occasionally go all the way up to the Lincoln Center area.

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Re: Sundance Showing Mainstream Movies

Postby Kenneth Burns » Wed May 17, 2017 12:21 pm

PaleoLiberal wrote:I was wrong in an earlier post. It wasn't the Orpheum that showed the artsy movies, it was the Majestic.


No, you were right, Orpheum also showed arty/indie films in addition to mainstream ones. I saw the gay Mormon romance "Latter Days" at the Orpheum, in the big room, as well as documentaries that didn't screen at the multiplexes ("Rivers and Tides," "Tarnation," "Comedian"), at least not in Madison. Majestic was still screening indie films my first few years in Madison, in the early 2000s, as well as some repertory fare.

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Re: Sundance Showing Mainstream Movies

Postby Ducatista » Wed May 17, 2017 12:52 pm

Prof. Wagstaff wrote:
PaleoLiberal wrote:I am proud to say I have never been to Sundance.

What an odd thing to be proud of...

I was thinking that exact thing before I read your post.

I've never understood all the shirt-rending about the price of Sundance. It's not like they jacked up the cost of an Epi-pen, jesus. A few bucks more to choose your seat, eat the only good theater popcorn left in town, and drink a beer or have some wine with your movie? HORRORS.

I've enjoyed a lot of Madison theaters over the years: grotty University Square, faded Majestic, cavernous Orpheum, dystopian Stage Door, bare-bones Cinematheque, oddly placed Westgate, part-time B10 Commerce, cramped Play Circle, comfy but boring Marquee Cinema... and, yes, Sundance. I've never been a fan of the multiplexes, but I'll go if they've got the movie I want to see. I hope the former Sundance keeps the reserved seating, good popcorn, and booze. If it does, we'll keep going.

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Re: Sundance Showing Mainstream Movies

Postby nonyuppie » Wed May 17, 2017 1:04 pm

PaleoLiberal wrote:On Houston street right off Broadway, so about a 15-20 min walk from my old apartment. This place was fancy with the cafe' in the theater, but the ticket prices were the same


That was the Angelika. I saw some good movies there but it had several subways close to the downstairs theaters that could be a bit distracting at times. It could really rumble.

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Re: Sundance Showing Mainstream Movies

Postby Prof. Wagstaff » Wed May 17, 2017 1:06 pm

Just FYI, Duca -- the multiplexes do the choose your seat when you buy your ticket thing now but honestly, I don't think that's much of a feature. Not only are the floor plans always poorly rendered, so the seat that's in the middle of the screen when you pick it out is actually off-center when you get there, but I also prefer to choose my seat based on who else is already seated where in the theater. There's no way to tell from the seat selection screen if the people directly in front or behind you are kids who won't put their phones away, ladies wearing too much perfume, or drunk frat boys, and with the reserved seating you can't just get up and move if someone is an annoyance.

Also: the best movie popcorn in town is at the Market Square budget theater.

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Re: Sundance Showing Mainstream Movies

Postby PaleoLiberal » Wed May 17, 2017 1:06 pm

I don't care about popcorn. I really don't. Nor do I want to drink wine at a theater. I want to watch a movie. Yes, reserved reclining seats are nice, but I can get that at AMC now.

Thing is, for many years money was tight. When Sundance drove Westgate out of business, that put the foreign/indie film out of my price range. So I didn't go. These days I'm not as into the foreign/indie films anyway, and if I want to see a first-run movie, AMC is a lot closer to my home with easier parking. Or I can go cheapo and go to Market Square or rent from the video store.

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Re: Sundance Showing Mainstream Movies

Postby PaleoLiberal » Wed May 17, 2017 1:07 pm

Prof. Wagstaff wrote:Just FYI, Duca -- the multiplexes do the choose your seat when you buy your ticket thing now but honestly, I don't think that's much of a feature. Not only are the floor plans always poorly rendered, so the seat that's in the middle of the screen when you pick it out is actually off-center when you get there, but I also prefer to choose my seat based on who else is already seated where in the theater. There's no way to tell from the seat selection screen if the people directly in front or behind you are kids who won't put their phones away, ladies wearing too much perfume, or drunk frat boys, and with the reserved seating you can't just get up and move if someone is an annoyance.

Also: the best movie popcorn in town is at the Market Square budget theater.


Market Square's popcorn is cheapest, too.

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Re: Sundance Showing Mainstream Movies

Postby Kenneth Burns » Wed May 17, 2017 1:20 pm

Ducatista wrote:I've never understood all the shirt-rending about the price of Sundance.

Sundance wasn't dramatically more expensive, but I know from playing live music that people really will make entertainment decisions based on one or two dollars. Westgate offered a good selection of indie/foreign fare at regular movie theater prices in a non-premium setting. Sundance offered a premium experience that was more expensive, but also programming that -- as the title of this thread suggests -- was more mainstream than some people wanted or expected.

Why did people expect indie programming? Because Sundance Cinema shared a name and philosophy with Robert Redford's indie-oriented Sundance Film Festival. When the cinema opened in 2007, Redford told Isthmus this in response to the question "Will Sundance Cinemas reflect the indie philosophy of your Sundance Film Festival?": "The idea would be to take as much of what we do in Park City [Utah] as possible and bring it into the country at large. Sundance's commitment is to discovering and supporting new and interesting voices in film, and following it through to create as many opportunities for that as possible."

Granted, that's not the same as saying "We will only ever show indie films." Redford left himself some wiggle room. But someone could read that and reasonably be disappointed that Sundance eventually showed many films that also screened at the local megaplexes.

The main thing is that before Sundance opened, there were three commercial cinemas showing indie/foreign films: Westgate, Hilldale, Orpheum. All three are gone. Now so is Sundance.

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Re: Sundance Showing Mainstream Movies

Postby PaleoLiberal » Wed May 17, 2017 1:48 pm

Kenneth Burns wrote:
Ducatista wrote:I've never understood all the shirt-rending about the price of Sundance.

Sundance wasn't dramatically more expensive, but I know from playing live music that people really will make entertainment decisions based on one or two dollars. Westgate offered a good selection of indie/foreign fare at regular movie theater prices in a non-premium setting. Sundance offered a premium experience that was more expensive, but also programming that -- as the title of this thread suggests -- was more mainstream than some people wanted or expected.

Why did people expect indie programming? Because Sundance Cinema shared a name and philosophy with Robert Redford's indie-oriented Sundance Film Festival. When the cinema opened in 2007, Redford told Isthmus this in response to the question "Will Sundance Cinemas reflect the indie philosophy of your Sundance Film Festival?": "The idea would be to take as much of what we do in Park City [Utah] as possible and bring it into the country at large. Sundance's commitment is to discovering and supporting new and interesting voices in film, and following it through to create as many opportunities for that as possible."

Granted, that's not the same as saying "We will only ever show indie films." Redford left himself some wiggle room. But someone could read that and reasonably be disappointed that Sundance eventually showed many films that also screened at the local megaplexes.

The main thing is that before Sundance opened, there were three commercial cinemas showing indie/foreign films: Westgate, Hilldale, Orpheum. All three are gone. Now so is Sundance.


THIS

In effect, we have gone from 3 cheap options to 1 expensive option to no options at all.
Sundance drove out the local theaters, then closed.

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Re: Sundance Showing Mainstream Movies

Postby Ducatista » Wed May 17, 2017 2:20 pm

Kenneth Burns wrote:Sundance wasn't dramatically more expensive, but I know from playing live music that people really will make entertainment decisions based on one or two dollars.

Yeah, I played out for over a decade in Madison, so I hear you. And I have two things to say to that: 1) Gambling on a movie for which you've read reviews & seen trailers is a whole lot different from gambling on a local band playing original music. (Which is usually where sticker price makes a difference, it seems... I've never gotten over what people will pay to see a shitty bowling alley coverband, not that there's anything wrong with shitty bowling alley coverbands.) 2) Priorities, man. If a $3 upcharge is really pricing somebody out of a movie, I question his commitment to moviegoing. I used to sell plasma to make rent, so I don't say that lightly.

PaleoLiberal wrote:Sundance drove out the local theaters, then closed.

Do you really believe that? How about you, Kenneth? I don't, but if you've got evidence, I'll listen. (Remember: correlation is not causation.)

I do think Sundance has been a big enabler of the crapification of the WI Film Fest, which makes me sad. Truly, deeply sad. And still I can't whip myself up into a Sundance-hating frenzy, go figure.

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Re: Sundance Showing Mainstream Movies

Postby Kenneth Burns » Wed May 17, 2017 2:44 pm

Ducatista wrote:
PaleoLiberal wrote:Sundance drove out the local theaters, then closed.

Do you really believe that? Do you, Kenneth? I don't, but if you've got evidence, I'll listen. (Remember: correlation is not causation.)


According to this report about Westgate's closing in December 2008, the Marcus-owned art house "struggled to get the most popular art and independent films after the much-heralded opening of the Sundance Cinemas in the Hilldale Mall in May 2007." The piece makes a persuasive case for a Sundance link, but Marcus didn't acknowledge one.

As for Hilldale, this piece reminds me that it closed in December 2006, five months before Sundance opened. Did it close because the owners knew Sundance was coming to Hilldale Mall? I don't know. The piece says "Hilldale's closing was expected when Sundance Cinemas announced its plans to build a six-screen theater nearby," which isn't conclusive. Hilldale's owners may have known about Sundance before the announcement. I loved the old Hilldale theater.

I never really regretted the end of first-run screenings at the Orpheum. In the early and mid 2000s at least, it wasn't a very pleasant place to see a movie.

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Re: Sundance Showing Mainstream Movies

Postby Ducatista » Wed May 17, 2017 2:57 pm

Kenneth Burns wrote:I loved the old Hilldale theater.

That lobby staircase was pretty spectacular.

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Re: Sundance Showing Mainstream Movies

Postby PaleoLiberal » Wed May 17, 2017 3:00 pm

Did Sundance kill off Westgate and the other indie theaters by itself?
I don't think so.
It helped.
Those theaters were skating on pretty thin ice as it was. At least the Orpheum was close to UW. Westgate wasn't near much of anything, except it was in a dying mall.

When I moved to Madison a little over 15 years ago, both Hilldale and Westgate were ailing. Both malls specialized mostly in local stores, rather than the big chain stores at East/West Towne Malls.
Since that time, on the west side, both the West Towne Mall and the Hilldale Mall have greatly expanded (if you count the stores outside the mall), and gentrified, esp. Hilldale. That was part of the mix that drove Westgate even further down.

So what killed the Westgate cinema? Part of it was the general degradation of the Westgate mall, which was helped along by the gentrification of Hilldale. Part of it was the vastly increased competition from Sundance. I can't say Sundance in and of itself killed off Westgate, but it drove the death blow. Had Sundance not been there, perhaps Westgate could've survived, perhaps not.

It made the indie/foreign dinner and a movie experience a completely different look. Instead of dinner at Rocky Rococo and movie at Westgate, the indie/foreign movie experience could be dinner at one of the nice restaurants at Hilldale followed by a movie at Sundance. Much nicer, and more expensive, experience. Just not what I was into.

I am not as committed a cinephile as some others. I used to watch perhaps 100 movies a year at theaters, part of that was my college had free movies 4 times a week. Old movies, but free, and the theater was great, and held every student in the college for the Friday and Saturday movies. Big theater, small college. Dinner and a movie was dorm food and a free movie was a nice cheap date. My wife was never really into the indie/foreign flick that much, but we used to go a few times a year to indie/foreign flicks. Also around the time Sundance opened we were hanging out with some friends who were much more into the club scene, so not as many movies.

So it got to where the movie choices were pick up something at the video store (which we did many times every year), go to Market Square (occasionally), see a first-run movie at AMC which is very close to our home (rarely), or go see an indie/art film at Sundance (never). The more expensive the movie choices got, the less often we chose that option. Sundance was the most expensive, so I avoided them. When Westgate went under, I could be more self-righteous about it.

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Re: Sundance Showing Mainstream Movies

Postby Ducatista » Wed May 17, 2017 5:03 pm

Fair enough, you two, I'm ready to hand some blame to Sundance. And I agree, it is too bad there aren't more places to see something other than the mainstream.

Majestic had a great little movie comeback a few years into Film Fest... I'm sad that the Fest stopped playing there. They still show movies once and a while, but more cult classic or period piece than indie/foreign. I haven't been to one in ages.

On the plus side, there's Cinematheque, and Union South, and free movies outside at the Edgewater in the summer. (Edgewater movies are a mixed bag, but we'll probably walk up for Jaws, and maybe Casablanca and The Big Lebowski.)


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