Saving a Theater With Film: Julia Marchese's Fight for the New Beverly

Movies are big affairs, and because of this, so too are the screens on which they are meant to be seen.
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In 2008, acclaimed filmmaker and surrealist David Lynch took to the Internet to voice his concern over the increasing trend of people watching movies on their mobile phones. His outrage was the stuff of viral video gold, but for film purists, the message rang true. Cinema is a grandiose medium with epic performances and sweeping visuals. To attempt to cram such an experience into the confines of a smartphone screen would be to rob oneself of the true magic of watching a movie.

Movies are big affairs, and because of this, so too are the screens on which they are meant to be seen.

Of course, it goes without saying that nothing compares to seeing a film in a theater. From Robert Altman to Rocky Horror, regardless or style of genre, there's a magic in the communal experience of seeing a movie the way it was intended.

In fact, probably the only thing better than seeing a movie on the big screen is seeing your favorite movie on the big screen.

Across the country, a plethora of independent and single screen theaters are providing that exact opportunity to eager fans, staging event screenings and revivals of film favorites from Goonies to Psycho and beyond.

Yet, the digital revolution is putting such filmic camaraderie in jeopardy. As more theaters are forced by studios to move away from traditional film projection, businesses are forced to face an audience who isn't willing to go to the movies to watch the same DVD they can at home. Beloved independent theaters are facing the wrath of the changing times, and their audiences are the ones who are left in the cold.

For filmmaker Julia Marchese, this forced digitalization is simply unacceptable. In a move to protect her favorite cinematic haunt, the legendary New Beverly in Los Angeles, Calif, Marchese has decided to fight the war on film by making one of her own.

Titled Out of Print, Marchese's documentary (currently raising funds) serves not only as a love letter to the theater that has garnered her so many opportunities to celebrate her favorite films , but is also a battle cry for all of us to fight for our theaters.

Recently, I caught up with Marchese to not only discuss Out of Print, but find out why her fight for the New Beverly is important to all of our independent theaters.

Obviously, the New Beverly is a place for which you have a lot of love and passion. Revival theaters like it and the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, Tex. have always been considered sacred by the community. Could you speak to why these theaters are so crucial to film fans?

Watching a film on a big screen on 35mm with an audience is a completely different experience than watching it at home. Scary movies are scarier, funny movies are funnier -- the vibe of the audience can wholly change the way you see a film. There is absolutely no better way to see a movie for the first time. If revival cinemas disappear, future film lovers and filmmakers will have this experience stolen from them.

Last year, the major film studios came together to announce that they would no longer make 35mm prints available to theaters. Could you explain to readers why this move could be detrimental to revival and independent movie theaters?

Many single screen movie houses are struggling to get by as it is -- there's no way they can compete with a multiplex. If they are squeaking by, and the studios deny them prints and force them to upgrade their system to digital -- a conversion that can easily cost $200,000 -- some theaters will be forced to close permanently. This is a great loss. A future where we only have multiplexes playing the exact same 15 films is a grim one, indeed.

I know you petitioned the studios to keep prints in circulation. Has any headway been made?

I know we have certainly gotten the studios' attention, and that, to me, is a triumph. I always knew that it would be a hard fight, but hopefully the studios really see that a great deal of people truly care about this issue, and will keep their 35mm prints available to revival cinemas all over the world, indefinitely.

Bottom line: If the prints are no longer available, do you think that puts the future of the New Beverly in question?

Our landlord, Quentin Tarantino, has been quoted as saying he would rather burn the New Bev to the ground than to show digital. I doubt he is serious about that, but we've all see Inglourious Basterds, so who knows...

What do you hope to show audiences through your documentary?

I want to show how weird and incredible the New Bev can be. A movie theater where you aren't going to pay an arm and a leg to get in, where you can see classic titles as they were meant to be seen with a considerate audience who won't talk or text during the film. Afterwards, you can hang out in the lobby with other like-minded cinephiles and discuss the film... this may not sound like much, but this is really a dying experience. I want to show how important 35mm and revival cinema is through the lens of this terrific movie theater.

You've already got some impressive names attached to serve as interview subjects for the project. Could you maybe reveal a few of them, and how they came to be involved?

I started a guest programming series in 2007 where we have directors come and program a week of movies that inspired them. They would then come and talk about the films with the audience. It went over tremendously well, and in the course of it, I got to meet several of my heroes. Most of them are fighting the good fight for 35mm, and love the New Beverly too, so I will be interviewing some of them for the film -- Joe Dante, Stuart Gordon, Rian Johnson, Kevin Smith... just to name a few. Trust me when I tell you that all of these men are serious about keeping revival cinemas alive.


For more information on the New Beverly, Julia's film, and/or her campaign, please visit the Out of Print fund page.

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