The Most Frustrating Theater in Los Angeles

Posted by on June 8th, 2010 at 12:56 AM

Cinefamily is a permanent film festival of the bizarre, cultish and wonderful, including at least one or two animation programs per month, by which thin reed I justify writing about it here.  It’s run by Sammy Harkham’s brother, Not Sammy Harkham But The Other One, and programmed with great style and originality by Hadrian Belove, as you can see here.

The venue for Cinefamily is the Silent Movie Theater, a Los Angeles institution immortalized in a Robert Bloch short story and further immortalized when its then-proprietor was murdered in a fake robbery engineered by his paramour, the projectionist.  I have been in Los Angeles long enough to have attended the Silent Movie once when it was still run by the original owner John Hammond, and more often when it was run by Larry Austin, the guy who was murdered.  The seats of the Silent Movie were legends of discomfort long before Cinefamily ever got there.  The cushions placed upon them are, like Rainier Wolfcastle’s goggles, completely useless.  In my younger days these seats were an ordeal, and in my nonage my keister has become so tender as to make them unbearable.  For instance, when I went to see Jules Feiffer’s Little Murders when Cinefamily showed it last year I had stand off to the side for the last half hour.  When he took over Harkham improved the situation somewhat by installing two rows of couches at the front of the theater.  These boast the worst sightlines in the house but cause no pain, so ever since the Little Murders experience when there’s a Cinefamily show I can’t resist I make a point of showing up early to get one.

Such was the case when I went last week to see a tribute to the 100 Greatest Looney Tunes Cartoons, in conjunction with Jerry Beck’s book of the same name.  So I get there an hour before the doors open, am nearly the first in line, and when I’m finally let in the least bad of the couch seats, the second row center, is unoccupied.  Down I plop.  Across from me on the couch sits a generic L.A. hipster shitheel, complete with the prissy little earring with the bead in it, $400 eyeglass frames with the tiny little lenses, black t-shirt and little black hipster hat.  These too are my people.  Anyway, he asks me if I wouldn’t mind moving to a seat on the extreme left so that his friends can sit on the couch next to him.  I tell him I waited an hour for this seat, so he will have to face the ignominy of having the arm of a couch between him and his friends.  Besides, if they want to sit together there are plenty of agony seats in the rows behind.

“I’m sorry you have to be an asshole,” he says.

“I’m sorry you have an inflated sense of entitlement,” I reply.

So the program starts.  About ten minutes into it a functionary of the theater comes and asks me to move to another seat, so they could fit in some latecomers who would otherwise be turned away.  Now when the management tells you to move you feel as though you have to, and besides, if I argue with him I’m the one who’s making a scene while people are trying to watch a movie.  So I let the functionary lead me away.

The seat he leads me to is still a couch seat, but at the far left of the first row, so looking at the screen is like watching a cruise ship sailing by from the dock.  I point out to the functionary that it’s a hell of a thing to be called an asshole and still have to sit in a lousy seat, a comment he may have found obscure.  He offers me a free bag of popcorn as compensation.  I tell him I would rather have the seat I waited an hour for.  He offers me popcorn again.  I glower at him until he goes away.  After about five minutes I realize there’s not much enjoyment to be had in fuming for two hours, and seeing the look on the face of the hipster shitheel when the lights go up is not an experience I relish.  So I got my money back and went home.

What is so terribly frustrating is that there’s so much I’d like to see at Cinefamily if the entire experience apart from what’s projected on the screen were not so miserable.  Like for instance, on July 2 Tom Laughlin will personally lay aside his pacifist principles and kick you in the nuts if you harm that little Indian girl, and you can also watch Billy Jack.  On July 6 Gene Deitch will present a program of his cartoons.  On July 11 they’re having a fundraiser where Stephin Merritt will be performing his score for a 1916 silent version of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.  If you have the stamina and the money I urge you to go.  If the funds are being raised to replace the seats I require it.  Me, if I’m going to the movies I go to the Arclight.  It’s all commercial crap but the seats are comfortable and they let you sit anywhere you want.

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3 Responses to “The Most Frustrating Theater in Los Angeles”

  1. Paul Slade says:

    There’s a couple of theatres here in London which allow everyone to seat themselves on a first-come-first-served basis. I usually turn up 20 minutes early so I can get a good seat two or three rows back in the middle of a row and enjoy the play from there.

    Often, I’m then asked to move along to make room for later arrivals who’ve been too discourteous and disorganised to show up in good time. Why is it taken for granted that these idiots should be given priority over a politer and wiser fellow such as myself?

    Similarly, theatre managers routinely delay the start of a play – keeping the hundreds of people who’ve arrived on time waiting in the auditorium — just so two or three latecomers can be seated before it starts.

    Once again, why are people too rude and fuckwitted to turn up on time given priority over the rest of us? Particularly when the inconvenienced majority far outweighs the handful of fools being helped? What is the logic here?

  2. Gary Groth says:

    I would have refused to move.

    But, that’s me.

  3. I only go to The Silent if the movie isn’t more than an hour and a half. I feel your pain.