09 May 2015


Locus Focus: Take One Hundred and Sixteen!

This month, we're looking at movie houses within movie houses movies. Last week we looked at a fictional setting that may have been more meta than I gave it credit for; and today we continue with something that is definitely part of a game that its director was playing with his audience. I've only ever seen this movie at home, and now I envy those who got to experience a theatre within a theatre.

Paramount Theatre, Hollywood
Ed Wood

"Thank God you're here! They're tearing up the place!"

Make that a real theatre within a real theatre . . . but with an odd sense of unreality.

Edward Davis Wood, Jr. was a real Hollywood director, and so any movie about his life requires scenes in real Hollywood locations. A quick online search will tell you that his project Bride of the Monster premiered at Paramount Theatre--the same place which got to be the first to screen Orson Welles's Citizen Kane. What the Internet is silent about, however, is whether the audience really did "tear up the place" . . . and try to attack Wood and his actors . . . and then stampede out of the theatre, before the movie even started.

Well, okay, they most likely didn't. Just as Wood most likely didn't meet his idol Welles and receive encouragement from him to keep going--which is another scene in the film! (Wouldn't both moments be notorious Hollywood history by now, if they had?) Indeed, I'd put a bit of money on the possibility that the near-feral audience was another homage to Welles, who actually did cause a panic with one of his own productions . . . which you might remember from a "Two or Three" Book Club foray into classic radio!

But while Welles had, in one sense, the ideal audience for his adaptation of The War of the Worlds, it took Wood a long time to find an audience worthy of his own efforts. Yes, he was a really bad director who probably still deserves to have mainstream movie lovers throw popcorn at him . . . but he was also worthy of an Oscar-winning Tim Burton biopic and has acquired a cult following that the majority of auteurs can only dream of. Many of the fans whom Wood won after his death would have loved to have been at the Paramount Theatre on opening night . . . and well, even I wouldn't turn my cultured nose up at a modern Ed Wood film festival.

Ed Wood may have been a commercial flop, but I kind of love it. The only thing that I wish were different about it, is the cinema where it premiered. It just seems wrong for Burton and company not to have gone for the El Capitan Theatre, which is, of course, the renamed Paramount Theatre (which had been, in Wood's day, the renamed El Capitan Theatre--because El Capitan was also its original name). If they had done that, they would have had the real renamed theatre within the real renamed theatre. (The thought is killing me!!!)

I totally forgot to end last week's post with a question, so I hope that this one makes up for it . . .

Question of the Week: Do you like being part of a big audience when watching a movie?


Paul Stilwell said...

I still think Burton's best film to date is Big Fish.

To answer the question: yes, if people in the audience are not dickering around with their stupid gadgets. Not because I like to be the "man in the crowd" - not at all - but because one of the hallmarks of a great film is that it brings an audience together in a kind of communion.

I remember Richard Dreyfuss talking about the opening night of Jaws. He said at the end the entire audience burst into applause, and as the credits rolled not one person got up to leave. After the credits they all burst into applause again. He said he had never seen anything like that before.

Jenny said...

Since I haven't seen the original Ed Wood, I'll just answer your question. Yes I enjoy watching certain movies with big crowd . Particularly superhero movies. There's just something so fun about us nerds. Other than that, I prefer a less crowded theater.

Enbrethiliel said...


Stilwell -- Big Fish is one that I haven't seen yet.

An audience in communion makes me think of concerts . . . but you're right that movie theatres are another example. Screenwriter Barb Nicolosi didn't call them the "churches of the masses" for no reason!

That's a cool story from Richard Dreyfuss. =) My favourite experience of being part of an audience is from the time I watched Rocky Balboa. Every time there was a scene in the boxing ring, a girl in my row started grunting and yelping in time with the punches. LOL! At first it was kind of annoying, but she was so into it that the rest of us ended up hitching our carts to her energy! (At least that's what I did. I hope that no one else ended up with a ruined Rocky Balboa experience!)

Jenny -- I'm perfectly happy watching movies at home, but I prefer catching "generation-defining" movies at the cinema. It's not so much the better technical experience that I'm willing to pay for, but the chance to brag to my grandchildren. LOL! Of course, I'm no prophet and won't always know which movies will be most impressive fifty years from now . . . but it's nice to guess. =)

Bob Wallace said...

Big Fish is Burton's best film. Edward Scissorhands was the first one of his I saw, and it still holds up.

Sheila said...

The opening-day anecdote reminds me more of the first performance of Stravinsky's Rites of Spring. I hear it was so avant-garde it started a riot!

I prefer watching movies at home, but with friends. It's the perfect balance of community and comfort. Big screens give me a headache.

Not that I *never* go to the theater-- because there are some movies you just have to go see. Growing up it was Star Trek movies, later Lord of the Rights movies. And we already have plans to go see the new Star Wars movie when it comes out. When you're a big nerd about something, you just can't wait months to catch it on DVD.

Enbrethiliel said...


Bob -- So I've heard!

Sheila -- I can't believe I forgot that story! I wonder if Burton had it in mind.

A friend and I will probably catch the new Star Wars together on the big screen, too. =) For some time after her older sister hosts a marathon party for the first six films!