Tonight at 7PM at the Portland Art Museum's Whitsell Auditorium, I will be introducing a special screening of Stanley Kubrick's masterpiece, 2001: A Space Odyssey and leading an audience discussion afterward. Part of the NW Film Center's ongoing Kubrick retrospective, it's a favorite film of mine (in the top 3 with Le Samourai and Star Wars). I wanted to mention this not just as shameless self-promotion, although it is admittedly that, but also because my first 2001 viewing was very much an architecturally important experience.
While I was growing up, I heard about Kubrick's film a lot from my dad - it was pretty much his favorite movie. But I never watched the picture once in those years (I would have been too young to appreciate it anyway). My dad actually made me promise that I would wait, however long it took, to see 2001: A Space Odyssey on a big screen. When I finally got my chance in 1993, I was 21 years old and living in Washington, DC. The American Film Institute held a special 25th anniversary screening at the Uptown Theater, where Kubrick's film had premiered on April 1, 1968. One of the special effects supervisors from the movie came and gave a slideshow presentation before the screening on how they built the sets. Even author Arthur C. Clarke (writer of the original short story) sent a tape-recorded message to the audience from his home (which the guy apparently never ever leaves) in Sri Lanka.
And you know what? It was great. Waiting over 20 years to see the movie on a big screen was worth it. The movie totally blew me away, and I'm not sure that would happened on TV, even without commercials. Funnily enough, though, I almost never go to movie theaters now. To borrow from an old Folgers commercial, I love the big screen, but it's the fellow moviegoers I could do without.
It seems like movie theaters could be going the way of the dinosaur. You can buy a television now practically as big as smaller theater screens. What's to be gained?
But then I think of how seeing Kubrick's picture in the Uptown Theater for the first time was one of the most awe-inspiring experiences of my life. It's why I'll be first in line tonight at the Whitsell even though I'm exhausted with 5 hours of sleep.
That also begs the question: What are Portland's best existing movie theaters? You could answer it based on architecture, technology or other criteria. My favorite is the Moreland Theater in Southeast, where they still have old school red velvet curtains and vanilla Coke, and the ticket taker doubles as the popcorn vendor. Others probably prefer the more luxurious environment of Living Room Theaters or Cinetopia. Still others like the vaudevillian vibe of the Clinton Street Theater. I defy anyone to choose a Regal Cinemas venue, though - too antiseptic and corporate.
Anybody else got a movie palace they love or a movie that can only be seen in a darkened theater?