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November 3, 2011 – 1:06 am | No Comment

It’s been a wait of over a year since the Angelika Theater closed in downtown Houston leaving the city without a movie theater devoted to art house films, foreign films along with regular studio movies. …

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Submitted by MBergeron on November 3, 2011 – 1:06 amNo Comment
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It’s been a wait of over a year since the Angelika Theater closed in downtown Houston leaving the city without a movie theater devoted to art house films, foreign films along with regular studio movies. Sure some of the slack has been picked up by the MFAH or the Rice Media Center or the Landmark River Oaks Three or the Regal Edwards Grand Palace 24 or even outside to loop at the AMC Studio 30. But for movie mavens who want to see or have the opportunity to choose to see the latest indie film the opening of the Sundance Cinemas Houston on Wednesday November 23, in the space formerly occupied by the Angelika, means a deluge of films that would otherwise bypass Space City.

And bypass us they have. Up to the shuttering of the Angelika in September of 2010 there’s always been more than one theater serving the art house scene since I moved here in the late 70s. Currently there’s only the RO3, the same theater that in the 80s was a repertory house playing two different films a night or over 50 various films a month. (That same theater also used to serve free hot tea in that Reagan decade, which I know was laced with marijuana stems.)

I get it, movies aren’t the attraction they were when I was growing up in terms of audience participation, and even if they were people in my age demographic don’t attend films with the kind of frequency of young dating couple. But that’s not how this doggie daddy rolls. I want to be able to see whatever new Lars von Trier film is rolling down the pike. I want to see the latest foreign film that rolled out in Gotham the week previously before my only option is DVD or streaming. All those films from Magnolia Pictures that played at the RO3 throughout the year as weekend midnight movies (everything from 13 Assassins to Tucker and Dale vs. Evil) should’ve had regular daytime and nighttime engagements in a theater. All the films that didn’t get released in Houston this year because they’re handled by smaller distributors that also premiere the same films day and date on the internet via limited streaming windows should’ve played at least for a one-week lock-in at a theater. But they didn’t because there simply weren’t enough screens or in the case of day and date releases because bigger movie chains like AMC won’t book those films precisely due to the day and date issue. On a side note, watch the major studios over the next few years try to emulate in some way the day and date economic model.

Movies are still one of the least expensive forms of outside the house entertainment; just compare the cost of going to the ballpark or taking in an opera. Plus there’s the cool factor of seeing films in a brand new theater. At least there you know the projector bulbs are new and offering their greatest potential lumens. The seats are comfortable and not yet broken in. Remember the last newest theater inside the loop (Grand Palace) opened over ten years ago. A recent visit to the Studio 30 (nearly 20 years old) turned into a nightmare when they turned the lights on full before the movie and revealed caked gunk inside the armrest cup holders that looked like it might’ve been alive at one time.

The manager of the new Sundance Cinemas Houston is Rob Arcos, who formerly managed the River Oaks Three and Greenway Three back during the halcyon years. Arcos also ran a successful DVD retail establishment MOVIES! The Store on Richmond most recently and was always there with a smile and more than one box of free posters for customers to peruse. The Sundance Theater chain also sports theaters in San Francisco and Madison.

The Sundance Cinemas Houston will offer eight screens. Because people know I cover movies I have been asked often in the last year about the new Sundance opening. In some ways this support of alternative viewing fare reminds one of the advocacy against tearing down the RO3. I will ask those who ask me what the last film they saw at the RO3 or the Angelika was, and for some strange reason over 80-percent of the time they reply Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I say something like wow man that film came out in 2004 and it’s now 2011. They reply something to the effect that they have a Hulu account for fewer than ten bucks a month and they don’t get out as much.

Also funny is the way that some people who I explain the new Sundance paradigm to keep referring to the new cinema as the “Angelika.” That’s like having your girlfriend call you by her ex-boyfriend’s name because she’s used to that name. Although, I still call the Olsteen Lakewood Church on Hwy 59 The Summit and never used the title Compaq Center.

Now people have a reason to get out of the house and see a movie on the big screen because there’s a new theater in town, the Sundance Cinemas Houston.

- Michael Bergeron

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