Alfred Hitchcock once told me, “You’ve got to make a ‘get-them-out-of-the-kitchen-movie.” That advice for movie-makers will always hold true. But the by-word today for movie exhibitors could be “You’ve got to get them off their laptops, blackberries and assorted substitutes and give them the real movie experience in the theaters.”
Going to the movies was always a great experience for me, growing up in the Bronx. Sure, there was the neighborhood theater, the Park Plaza where on a Saturday we could see the next chapter of the serial, plus a cartoon, newsreel, and a double feature. We lived for the arrival of the glamorous Paradise theater where you could gaze at the stars when the screen offering was too dull. And there was the great experience of going “downtown” to be thrilled inside one of the great movie palaces, first, the Roxy, which then gave way to the great Radio City Music Hall. But there were the dozen other choices including the Paramount, where I tried to get a job as an usher whiile still going to Townsend Harris High School. I wasn’t tall enough, I was told. But that didn’t stop me. I got a job as usher working a split shift in the nearby Times Square home of MGM’s B-movie house, The Criterion. The job entitled me to get my Social Security card on Dec.23, 1938. I was still 16.
Fast forward to Hollywood where we lived on Whitley Terrace and from which I could walk down to Hollywood Blvd. and take in its great movie palaces. What excitement to see a movie in the Pantages, the WB, the Egyptian, Grauman’s Chinese and the many others where I would m.c. a hundred premieres in the years after WWII as I wrote the column for Variety — for 52 years.
I also worked the red carpet at theaters in Beverly Hills along Wilshire Blvd. and in 1984 — in Westwood on Pico Blvd. I hosted the premiere of “Rhinestone” starring Sylvester Stallone and Dolly Parton at the Picwood theater. The movie — and other flops — may have been one ofthe reasons the Picwood theater closed and the area darkened.
Pico and Westwood Blvds. came to life this weekend — brighter than ever before thanks to the arrival of the Landmark Theaters. Put away your laptops and any pocket-sized showbiz transmitters and experience a movie in any of the 12 theaters in the Landmark complex which Todd Wagner and Mark Cuban have brought to Hollywood, excuse it, Westwood, from Texas.
I didn’t see any of the movies which opened there this weekend, but the film samplings displayed a dazzling, crystalline experience in both sight and sound — from any seat in any of the theaters I tested. And what comfort in seats ranging up to sofas. A large restaurant is planned by next Spring and in the meanwhile, the choices of food and drink already make a going-to-the-movies a complete outgoing experience. Now — if we can only get some “get-them-out-of-the kitchen movies ” to see.