Sell Me on Cinecon!

Open, general discussion of silent films, personalities and history.
Chris Snowden
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Sell Me on Cinecon!

Unread post by Chris Snowden » Thu Jun 26, 2008 8:25 pm

Cinecon is two months away.

The website (http://www.cinecon.org) doesn't announce any film titles, and if I'm remembering last year's business meeting, each night at the hotel will cost $275 or something.

Say I choose another hotel instead. Between gas, lodging, and registration, going to Cinecon would cost me nine hundred bucks, minimum.

I've been to every Cinecon for over a decade now, and every year there've been one or two knockout films, a good handful of pleasant rarities, and two big scoops of B-movies I won't remember having seen a week later.

I've always enjoyed the show. (Well, not so much last year, between the weather and the film selection.) But this year, I don't know. For the first time, I'm not feeling it.

To quote the Clash, should I stay or should I go now?
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Re: Sell Me on Cinecon!

Unread post by Harlett O'Dowd » Fri Jun 27, 2008 7:12 am

Chris Snowden wrote:Cinecon is two months away.

The website (http://www.cinecon.org) doesn't announce any film titles, and if I'm remembering last year's business meeting, each night at the hotel will cost $275 or something.
The Cinecon rate at the hotel this year is $179 a night - so with taxes, etc., that should come up to something like $210 a night. Parking a car, of course, will add to that.

But yes, hotel for four nights and the cost of the convention itself will put a big hole in a grand.

And so long as we don't let Evil Bob know, and if you don't mind downsizing, there are cheaper hotels in the area - check out hotwire or orbitz.

Or you could make a cinebuddy and double up.

I wonder if there's any chance of seeing that extended print of A Night At The Opera this year or FINALLY getting to see that restored Tillie's Punctured Romance.

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Unread post by rudyfan » Fri Jun 27, 2008 12:18 pm

Well, I have been trying to get ahold of Stan Taffel to talk to him for a podcast, and I've got zero response back. I hope it merely means he is busy.

If I can make it down, I will be staying at Chez Fred.
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Unread post by silentfilm » Fri Jun 27, 2008 12:22 pm

The Motel 6 on one block off of Hollywood Blvd is $69 a night, except that they increase the rate by $10 for Friday and Saturday night. It is about a five minute walk from the Egyptian. It is pretty no-frills, but who cares. I go to Cinecon to watch films from 10 a.m. to midnight.

When I fly into LAX, I take the airport bus to the downtown station. I think that it is $4. Then you can take the subway to the Hollywood and Highland station. It's much cheaper than a taxi.

I understand Chris' frustration at not knowing what will be screened. It is an expensive trip for which you have to plan ahead. And if you live in an area where you have other classic film options, you are taking a gamble that Cinecon will be a whole lot better that what you can see locally. You want to know what will be screened so you feel like you are getting your money's worth. You've got to save your funds a few months in advance.

Where I live, the only silent or classic films shown are the ones that I project myself. When I attended my first Cinecon in 2001, I was really astounded that there was an event in a gorgeous 1920s theater, mostly in 35mm with great music and ultra-rare films. Plus there is great memorabilia to buy and fellow cinephiles to converse with. So I am willing to gamble months ahead of time that I will enjoy it. But I'm probably in the minority of attendees.

There's also a lot more competition now, with Slapsticon, Cinevent, Cinefest, Cinecation, the Broncho Billy Festival, the Kanas Silent Film Festival, etc.

Still, I've got to hand it to Bob, Mike, Stan, and the rest of the Cinecon staff. I've never been disappointed in the four times that I've attended. I promised my wife that I'd be home this Labor Day, so I won't be there this year. I've already told her that I will be there in 2009 though!

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Unread post by Frederica » Fri Jun 27, 2008 1:20 pm

rudyfan wrote: If I can make it down, I will be staying at Chez Fred.
Well, gosh. I understand Chris's concerns since I had to make a similar, painful decision about the San Francisco Silent Film Festival and for the same reasons.

My criteria is different from all you hard-core cinephiles though; a goodly part of my reason for attending Cinecon is to socialize with people I only get a chance to see once per year, or sometimes once every two years. I usually enjoy (more or less) the films, like all of us I'll sit through almost anything--except for too many back-to-back Vitaphone shorts. But the films aren't my sole reason for attending.

So I'll be there, but dangit! We'll miss you, Bruce, and also Chris if you decide not to partake.

Fred

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Unread post by Lokke Heiss » Sat Jun 28, 2008 12:06 am

I'll sit through almost anything--except for too many back-to-back Vitaphone shorts. But the films aren't my sole reason for attending.
***
As we all know, each festival is always a compromise between the competing factions. And you're never going to make everyone happy. That said, each festival will essentially or eventually show the tastes of the few people who are really in charge.

And I think it's no surprise to anyone that the Cinecon is heavy on Hollywood '30s features and shorts. Gee, I wonder what the powers that be are really into.

Past years on alt.movies silent we had some debates over Cinecon. I remember asking if it was better to show a really good movie on 16, or a mediocre movie with a great print in 35mm. The answer to that question is the answer to the Cinecon's central interest.

The other point I had brought up was that the Cinecon, at least as I had known it in it's incarnation at the Roosevelt, had always made a point of bringing in one or two foreign films. The Magician, the Haunted Train, and the Chess Player are just some examples. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I bet it's been awhile since that tradition has been continued.

And we also had some debates about a central issue of festivals: repeat shows. I understand this is an extremely complicated area, but a defense of 'not repeating' was that there were thousands of other features and short from the '30s that haven't been seen. My answer was that maybe the reason they haven't been seen was that they weren't particularly good. But if you're really into 35mm prints of so-so Hollywood films, you'll enjoy a film that might be a 2/10 from someone else. MY attitude is that a great print doesn't turn a film into a 6 or 7, but that's me.

And I still maintain--if your source of material is from about a 25 years window, and almost never a repeat, almost all from Hollywood, you will be forced to show increasingly mediocre material.

Having buried Cesaer, let me praise him a little. I think Cinecon works best on using its real resources, including local talent. I think bringing in directors, and having award banquets are a great idea, and if one must throw in a 60s or 70s film to do it, god help us all, break a tabu and just show that film. One of my most pleasant experiences of past Cinecons was to watch Tunes of Glory on a big screen.

So a long answer to your question: stay or go, but a real answer is--have you been to the other cons--D.C. upstate NY, or Ohio? Try something new, or see old friends?

Is there going to be a Daughters of Naldi lunch? Fred still owes me for a couple of boxes of Moxi that never got delivered. The guilt and shame of it all. A DoN without the moxi to buy the Moxi.

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Unread post by Frederica » Sat Jun 28, 2008 8:00 am

Lokke Heiss wrote:
So a long answer to your question: stay or go, but a real answer is--have you been to the other cons--D.C. upstate NY, or Ohio? Try something new, or see old friends?

Is there going to be a Daughters of Naldi lunch? Fred still owes me for a couple of boxes of Moxi that never got delivered. The guilt and shame of it all. A DoN without the moxi to buy the Moxi.
Other than San Francisco, no I haven't gone to the other conventions, but that's all part and parcel of my "not a hard core cinephile" thing. If I'm going to lay out the wodges of cash needed to attend a convention elsewhere I'm not going to sit in a theater all day watching movies! I would be out tasting the delights of D.C. or...ummm...upstate New York or....er...Ohio! I've never been to Ohio, I'm sure it has quite nice delights. Heaven help me if I ever manage to get to Pordenone. "Nice theater. OK, back to Venice, bring the grappa!"

(Grumble.) I suppose I could organize a NitrateVille lunch. How many Villains are planning on coming to Cinecon, and how many of you will leave the theater long enough to eat lunch? Is there enough interest in a NV lunch, enough to warrant my spending the time organizing same?

Fred

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Unread post by Jim Roots » Sun Jun 29, 2008 1:16 pm

[
Other than San Francisco, no I haven't gone to the other conventions, but that's all part and parcel of my "not a hard core cinephile" thing. If I'm going to lay out the wodges of cash needed to attend a convention elsewhere I'm not going to sit in a theater all day watching movies! I would be out tasting the delights of D.C. or...ummm...upstate New York or....er...Ohio! I've never been to Ohio, I'm sure it has quite nice delights. Heaven help me if I ever manage to get to Pordenone. "Nice theater. OK, back to Venice, bring the grappa!"
Come up to Ontario. First I'll take you directly across the street from my office to the store called Shoe Obsession. THen I'll drive you to Toronto where you can visit the Bata Shoe Museum.

Films? Who needs films?

Jim

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Unread post by Rob Farr » Sun Jun 29, 2008 7:37 pm

Jim Roots wrote: Come up to Ontario. First I'll take you directly across the street from my office to the store called Shoe Obsession. THen I'll drive you to Toronto where you can visit the Bata Shoe Museum.

Films? Who needs films?

Jim
And it is amazing that anyone finds time to watch films at the Syracuse Cinefest with the International Museum of Salt just down the road. Since the Cinefest has a long-standing tradition of free popcorn throughout the weekend, perhaps it is a matter of synergy: "Gotta have some popcorn; gotta get some salt; gotta have some popcorn..."
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Unread post by Lokke Heiss » Sun Jun 29, 2008 8:37 pm

Heaven help me if I ever manage to get to Pordenone. "Nice theater. OK, back to Venice, bring the grappa!"
****
You definitely hit the nail on the head with this problem. In the old days ('90s) I was able to take three weeks off in October, which made everything perfect -- one week to revisit old haunts, one week to see a new area of Europe, and one week to collapse at Pordenone.

Taking only two weeks to go to Europe is pushing it, and if you only have 10 days or less, going to Pordenone is simply crazy (for anyone outside of Europe, or not working in an archive).

And to a smaller extent, this is the problem for events in this country. I'd love to go the Syracuse festival. Cost of flights, plus hotels for a four day or more period: over $500. Gosh, I could take that money and say -- see Montreal and play real tourist. Or for just a few more hundred dollars, you could fly to Paris, etc.

So as much as I love movies, I'm with Fred on this one. I went to EVERY one of the Cinecons when I lived in LA (almost 18) but now that I'm in the Midwest, if I fly back to LA, I'm going to see my friends for that precious 5 day period.

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Unread post by dr.giraud » Mon Jun 30, 2008 10:52 am

Rob Farr wrote: And it is amazing that anyone finds time to watch films at the Syracuse Cinefest with the International Museum of Salt just down the road.
You forgot the Erie Canal Museum--that's still in Syracuse, I think.

I still recall, with fondness, my 8th-grade visit to the Salt Museum. (1976, I think?) And yet, the few times I've made it to Cinefest, I've never been tempted to make a return visit.
dr. giraud

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Unread post by gjohnson » Mon Jun 30, 2008 10:55 am

From the sound of this thread I'd have to conclude that there is a Depression going on in this country.

Now pardon me, I'm going out to siphon some gas.

Gary J.

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Unread post by Danny Burk » Mon Jun 30, 2008 2:19 pm

dr.giraud wrote:I still recall, with fondness, my 8th-grade visit to the Salt Museum. (1976, I think?) And yet, the few times I've made it to Cinefest, I've never been tempted to make a return visit.
I teach photographic workshops in the Smokies every April and October, and during the painful passes through Gatlinburg, I never fail to snicker as I go by the Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum. And no, I haven't been tempted to stop in.

Danny

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Unread post by boblipton » Mon Jun 30, 2008 2:37 pm

All these replies to talk you into going to Cinecon..... by people who don't.

Bob

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Unread post by milefilms » Mon Jun 30, 2008 7:27 pm

boblipton wrote:All these replies to talk you into going to Cinecon..... by people who don't.
Bob
I got to say, as a person who hasn't been able to go for a few years now because of work (and I had to cancel my trip to Bologna this week so I'm really dismayed), I miss Cinecon and the people. And kid them as I may, I especially miss Bob and Mike. They've been doing this for a long, long time for no money and obviously from the silent listservs, not much praise. Money matters can be a concern, but if it's not or other things (cigars, trips to Victoria's Secret -- anything other than Milestone DVDs) can be cut out of your life, Los Angeles is a great place to be for a cinephile.
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Unread post by Lokke Heiss » Mon Jun 30, 2008 11:21 pm

, Los Angeles is a great place to be for a cinephile.[/quote]

Dennis, I agree with what you are saying, but strangely, LA is TOO great a place for cinephiles, in the sense of all the other distractions present that also relate to film.

In the past, Cinecon DID run some excursions, like over to UCLA to watch nitrate film. I know that's a lot of work for somebody, but I for one really enjoyed the idea of a field trip.

The other problem with Cinecon is the remodeled Egyptian. I'm told it's great sound, but who cares? It has the Feng Shui of a cardboard box in a dumpster. The crummy folding seats in the Roosevelt seemed to have more class and history. Of course the Roosevelt's been ruined too, so you can't go back, you can't even run in place.

So you can't go to Bologna? Even my Pordenone friends were saying I should go there, if I could only go to one festival in Europe. Have you been there? What do you think?

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Unread post by Harlett O'Dowd » Tue Jul 01, 2008 6:16 am

Lokke Heiss wrote: In the past, Cinecon DID run some excursions, like over to UCLA to watch nitrate film. I know that's a lot of work for somebody, but I for one really enjoyed the idea of a field trip.

The other problem with Cinecon is the remodeled Egyptian. I'm told it's great sound, but who cares? It has the Feng Shui of a cardboard box in a dumpster. The crummy folding seats in the Roosevelt seemed to have more class and history. Of course the Roosevelt's been ruined too, so you can't go back, you can't even run in place.
As a vertically challenged person, I *hated* the Blossom Room. It was fun to be in it once - for the history - but as a place to watch film, no.

But I agree with you that it would be great to bring back the field trips and the nitrate screenings.

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Unread post by gjohnson » Tue Jul 01, 2008 10:42 am

Lokke Heiss wrote:,
The other problem with Cinecon is the remodeled Egyptian. I'm told it's great sound, but who cares? It has the Feng Shui of a cardboard box in a dumpster.
Are you telling me I've been watching movies in a dumpster for the past decade?
Great.....now how am I going to tell if a movie stinks or not?

I guess I should only attend film showings at Italian cineplexes and hope and pray that it hasn't been built over the rotting corpse of Mussolini.

Gary J.

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Unread post by Lokke Heiss » Tue Jul 01, 2008 11:30 am

Are you telling me I've been watching movies in a dumpster for the past decade?
Great.....now how am I going to tell if a movie stinks or not?
*****
Opinions divide widely about the Egyptian--I'm glad some people like it, but I think the industrial design of the walls just snuff out any warmth to the place, and it has the inherent "the seats don't quite match the viewing angle" problems of any large theater turned into a multiplex, or cut down.

I could take the Egyptian for a few hours, but the place just wore me down (esp. with a mediocre film).

Now be honest, if you had your choice, would you like to spend 8 hours a day for 4 days in the new Egyptian, or Disney's El Capitan? (a restoration that was done beautifully)?

*****
I guess I should only attend film showings at Italian cineplexes and hope and pray that it hasn't been built over the rotting corpse of Mussolini.
******
Huh? Cineplexes are bad anywhere in the world, because they can't bring that sense of crowd participation that makes (for me anyway) part of the joy of watching a film. I hate watching a movie on my TV, but as I sit down in these multiplexes that only seat about 20 people, in a small little room where the speakers are the size of the screen, I mutter and ask: "Why am I here?"

I guess building over rotting corpses would definitely be a Feng Shui problem, but almost any building in Los Angeles is built over the bones or broken promises of Native Americans...add a sprinkling of Southern California greed, corruption and theft and I'm surprised we don't get a Poltergeist sequel every time we sit down in the dark.

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Unread post by Frederica » Tue Jul 01, 2008 2:52 pm

gjohnson wrote:
Lokke Heiss wrote:,
The other problem with Cinecon is the remodeled Egyptian. I'm told it's great sound, but who cares? It has the Feng Shui of a cardboard box in a dumpster.
Are you telling me I've been watching movies in a dumpster for the past decade?
Great.....now how am I going to tell if a movie stinks or not?

I guess I should only attend film showings at Italian cineplexes and hope and pray that it hasn't been built over the rotting corpse of Mussolini.

Gary J.
I missed the connection, here.

Fred

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Unread post by milefilms » Tue Jul 01, 2008 5:31 pm

Lokke Heiss wrote:,
So you can't go to Bologna? Even my Pordenone friends were saying I should go there, if I could only go to one festival in Europe. Have you been there? What do you think?
Luckily, I've gotten to go to both the past few years for work. I love seeing the film people (when I'm not too introverted to introduce myself) and being in Italy no matter what. And both festivals have a lot going for it and some annoyances. (The Pordenone Death Theater being an example.)

Bologna has a lot of silent films (every morning there's 2 hours or so of films from exactly 100 years ago so this year is 1908), some great cinemascope screenings (though I hear that theater is no longer as of a few months ago), musicals, and every night, a screening in the Piazza Maggiore on a screen the size of a building and 2000 people laughing and applauding. AND of course, Bologna is one of the best places to dine in the world. For finding new restorations and unknown films for Milestone, I would choose Bologna. For silent film education, I would choose Pordenone. I'm very glad I usually don't have to decide!
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Unread post by precode » Tue Jul 01, 2008 6:08 pm

Lokke Heiss wrote:,

The other problem with Cinecon is the remodeled Egyptian. I'm told it's great sound, but who cares? It has the Feng Shui of a cardboard box in a dumpster. The crummy folding seats in the Roosevelt seemed to have more class and history. Of course the Roosevelt's been ruined too, so you can't go back, you can't even run in place.
Whatchoo talkin' 'bout, Willis? The Egyptian is a great place to see movies! As much of the original interior was retained as possible; the seats are lovely, comfortable high-backed models with cup holders and raisable armrests; the screen is huge and the sound is perfect. Plus they can run any format from 70mm to--yes--nitrate. If sitting in an uncomfortable metal hotel chair makes you happy, God bless ya, but I love the Egyptian!

Mike S.
(and coming from a Jew, that's sayin' something)

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Re: Sell Me on Cinecon!

Unread post by Chris Snowden » Tue Jul 01, 2008 8:09 pm

Chris Snowden wrote:To quote the Clash, should I stay or should I go now?
All right, I'm going to Cinecon.

I appreciate everybody's input here (even the thread's unusually peculiar detours were worth reading), but I reached my decision while far away from folksy ol' Nitrateville.

I was at the Broncho Billy Festival this past weekend to watch nickelodeon shorts, and Bob Birchard was on hand to introduce each of the programs.

It was deja-vu. The voice, the cadence of his voice, the way he held the mike, even the way his eyes continually scanned the back wall of the theater as he spoke... everything was just the way it is when he introduces films at Cinecon.

And I realized I miss that, and everything that goes along with it: the anticipation of watching a vintage movie I'd never heard of, and hoping it won't suck.

Mulling over the prospects of going to Mel's after the screening for a gargantuan slice of chocolate cake, no matter what time that'll be.

Handicapping the weekend's best (and worst) with friends I get to see only once or twice a year.

Scanning the Walk of Fame stars embedded in the sidewalk. Feeling sorry for old Anita Stewart, whose star is right in front of the Scientology building.

Feeling even sorrier for Marilyn Monroe, whose star is in front of McDonald's.

Pushing through that heavy revolving door in the lobby of the Renaissance, and wishing I could do it gracefully like William Powell.

Finding a clutch of friends in the lobby and talking film with them until two in the morning.

The daily ritual of dragging myself out of bed in time to catch the 9am screening, which is invariably something I really want to see.

I could go on and on. Anyway, I'm on board. Hope to see you there!
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Re: Sell Me on Cinecon!

Unread post by Jim Roots » Wed Jul 02, 2008 6:32 am

Chris Snowden wrote:
Chris Snowden wrote:To quote the Clash, should I stay or should I go now?
All right, I'm going to Cinecon.

I appreciate everybody's input here (even the thread's unusually peculiar detours were worth reading), but I reached my decision while far away from folksy ol' Nitrateville.
All of that thread for NOTHIN' ! Geez Louise!

Jim

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Re: Sell Me on Cinecon!

Unread post by Frederica » Wed Jul 02, 2008 8:04 am

I was at the Broncho Billy Festival this past weekend to watch nickelodeon shorts, and Bob Birchard was on hand to introduce each of the programs.
You were? Then where's our report?
Mulling over the prospects of going to Mel's after the screening for a gargantuan slice of chocolate cake, no matter what time that'll be.
It's really not fair, folks. He really does eat gargantuan slices of chocolate cake, and he never gains a pound. Usually if I watch him eat the cake I'll gain the pound for him.
Scanning the Walk of Fame stars embedded in the sidewalk. Feeling sorry for old Anita Stewart, whose star is right in front of the Scientology building.

Feeling even sorrier for Marilyn Monroe, whose star is in front of McDonald's.
If it makes you feel any better, Nita Naldi's star is directly across the street from Le Sex Shoppe.

Fred

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Unread post by Lokke Heiss » Wed Jul 02, 2008 11:00 am

Whatchoo talkin' 'bout, Willis? The Egyptian is a great place to see movies! As much of the original interior was retained as possible; the seats are lovely, comfortable high-backed models with cup holders and raisable armrests; the screen is huge and the sound is perfect. Plus they can run any format from 70mm to--yes--nitrate. If sitting in an uncomfortable metal hotel chair makes you happy, God bless ya, but I love the Egyptian!



Granted the chairs were uncomfortable, but they had a saving grace of being able to move, so I was usually able to push mine around to good advantage, something you can never do with a stadium seat with a thousand cup holders. I then put a cushion on the seat, and I was a happy Cineconner.

You slided by my question, which I will repeat: Would you rather see a movie at the El Capitan, or the Egyptian?

The remodeled Egyptian has an inherent problem -- the sight lines don't quite match for a large number of seats. This is the natural outcome for cutting a space down for the purposes of multiplexing. If this doesn't bother you, then it's not big deal. For me, it's very distracting, especially if I'm in the theater for more than one or two shows. There are about 50 seats at the Egyptian that are okay, the rest have a problem with the 'angle of subtension' or something similar.

That's why I far preferred watching the American Cinemateque films at the Santa Monica Aero, which for a small theater, has terrific sight lines.

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Unread post by silentfilm » Wed Jul 02, 2008 1:09 pm

I'd agree that the first few rows at the Egyptian aren't that great, but they are not that great at any movie theater! I've never sat in the balcony, but the rest of the seats seem very comfortable to me. And I'm one of those crazies that tries to watch every film shown all weekend!

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Re: Sell Me on Cinecon!

Unread post by Harlett O'Dowd » Wed Jul 02, 2008 1:30 pm

Frederica wrote:
If it makes you feel any better, Nita Naldi's star is directly across the street from Le Sex Shoppe.

Fred
I dunno, seems fairly apropos to me.

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Re: Sell Me on Cinecon!

Unread post by greta de groat » Wed Jul 02, 2008 1:53 pm

Frederica wrote:


If it makes you feel any better, Nita Naldi's star is directly across the street from Le Sex Shoppe.

Fred
Really? It must be near Gilbert Roland's.

Chris, if you post a Broncho Billy report, i'll fill in with the ones you didn't see, i'm swamped right now and don't have time to post a full report.

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Unread post by precode » Thu Jul 03, 2008 11:19 pm

Lokke Heiss wrote:You slided by my question, which I will repeat: Would you rather see a movie at the El Capitan, or the Egyptian?
Sorry, thought it was rhetorical. I love the El Cap, but its sight lines are are no better on the sides than the Egyptian's, the big stage causes the screen to be further recessed, there's minimal raking of the seats, and of course you hafta put up with the inevitable yowling children. (Try watching THE JUNGLE BOOK with some toddler behind you going, "Who's that?" "What's that?" "Why?" and "Is it over yet?" for the entire picture.) Advantage: Egyptian.

Mike S.
(who also asks "Why?"...as in, "Why am I sitting in front of this idiot who won't tell his kid to STFU?")

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