Saturday, August 31, 2013

Waiting for "The Wizard"

In compiling a history of Grauman's Chinese and posting this material on the web at

I have done an old-fashioned thing: I have tried to keep my opinion out of the proceedings, confining myself to the facts as I have been able to discover them. However lately, especially since the installation of IMAX at the theatre, people have been asking, "What do you think of the IMAX conversion?" or "Do you think they will be able to get better pictures now?" down to "Do you think they will show THE WIZARD OF OZ in its original aspect ratio?"

Questions such as these have suggested that perhaps a place for my opinion on some of these issues might be in order, and so, I have started this blog, which I envision as a place for me to review the films which play the Chinese in the coming months and years.

My standards for films are simple. Tell me a story.  Tell me something about how you see life.  Keep it moving.  Don't pander.  I started going to the movies at the Chinese way back in late 1971, when Warner Bros. dug up and dusted off HOUSE OF WAX, presenting it in a 70mm stereophonic process known as StereoVision. I believe (and here is the opinion part), that the right and left images were placed side by side in the 70mm frame, allowing for the two images to remain in synch, while 70mm's magnetic sound reproduced what might have been the film's original stereo mix with great clarity.  I think the images passed through Polaroid filters, which were then viewed through Polaroid filter cardboard glasses.

HOUSE OF WAX might not be the perfect example of a film following my above stated dictates, but still, it told an unusual/macabre story, utilizing a new film technology (3 dimension photography), which gave the proceedings a decidedly unique atmosphere.  Whatever else you might say about it, it is a singular film, serving up memorable images, even if not having a storyline that one can recall years later.

So the Chinese Theatre and I go way back. I am looking forward to seeing this new incarnation of THE WIZARD OF OZ, a film which seems capable of remaining relevant to generation after generation of viewers. Its message and the strength of its storytelling and the performances seem pretty indestructible. Go ahead you guys, 3-D it, IMAX it, stereophrantic it - I will always be able to curl up with my wonderful Blu-Ray mono, 1:1.33 copy if I take exception to this new version, but I rather hope that I don't.


As for the Chinese Theatre itself, let's take a wait and see attitude. With as long a history as I have with the theatre, I was not overly thrilled with the idea of the stadium seats - I was of the opinion that the Chinese was the PERFECT place to see a film - even better than the vaunted Goldywn Theatre at AMPAS Headquarters in Beverly Hills.
When I took the Hard Hat Tour a few weeks ago, the main chandelier was lowered to the floor, making a good shot difficult. Oh well.
But one thing that I have come to realize as I compiled the lists of "day and date" theatres which play films concurrently with the Chinese since the early 80s, and it is this: theatres have to move with the times. It is a fascinating journey to follow the fortunes of theatres from the single screens to the multiplex, megaplex, then to the stadium megaplex with an IMAX screen. This is a competitive business. There is an IMAX screen only a couple miles away at Universal Citywalk.  There is the Arclight complex.  It is daunting.  Nothing makes me sadder than to see a film at the Chinese with only 12 people in the audience. Hopefully, IMAX will help change that.

But what will the Chinese Theatre be like as a THEATRE?  Will it remain the best place to see a film?  We shall have to wait until September 20, and see. We will doubtless have our own opinions.

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