Sunday, October 01, 2006

Theatre closes rather than show "Jackass 2"

Greg Boardman, owner of the independent movie theatre The Lorraine in Northern California, closed down his shop a week or so ago in "protest" over "Jackass 2." The fellas over on Libertas are, somewhat predictably, giddy for this:

I said my peice on this in a response to their story, a portion of which I'll repeat here:

I had never, ever heard of Greg Boardman or the Lorraine theatre prior to reading about this earlier today. My immediate, fully-formed response is that this is a marvelous, impressive, commendable, ingeniously-mounted…

…completely shallow, self-serving and gallingly-obvious PUBLICITY STUNT. Mr. Boardman, one huckster to another: Well done, sir, well done.

Oh, come on. Don’t tell me ANY of you are actually BUYING this? Give me a break. I don’t doubt that this fellow’s sincerity in being repulsed by Jackass… but read what he said CLOSELY:

” “There’s just so much lousy material out there — people vomiting on the screen,” said Boardman, 52, who grew up watching movies in the Lorraine and now runs the business from Northern California. “I have one of the finest sound systems in the world, and I don’t want to waste it on such drivel.” ”

That one little bit right there TELLS YOU that Mr. Boardman is both A.) a previously-unknown natural-born genius of self-promotion and B.) completely and utterly full of it.

FIRST, note the very general-sounding description of Jackass in specific but all “bad movies” by association: Broad enough to appeal to both “liberal” parents concerned about violence and “conservative” ones concerned about sex.

SECOND, catch that bit at the end where he’s sure to add in the plug for one of the prime selling points of his independent theatre, “one of the finest sound systems in the world?” Slick.

THRID, and most importantly please observe that Mr. Boardman not only OWNS the theatre, but the actual article explains that he recently aquired and re-opened it as a new business venture. This means that he is not part of a chain, and is running the show, and thus NO ONE was forcing him to show “Jackass 2″ or anything else. He could’ve shown 2nd runs of “Monster House” instead. Or could’ve scooped up “Everyone’s Hero” for a run. He could’ve shown classics. (All of those, btw, would have cost him less to exhibit than Jackass.)

He’s in CALIFORNIA, he could’ve put out an open call for local independents to submit their stuff. Hell, there are roadshow/revival entities by the truckload out there that specialize in delivering certain kinds of programming to places just like the Lorraine. BUT doing that just makes you one of a dozen other indie theatres doing what they can to get by. But THIS… this “protest” against bad-taste in general… THIS makes him and his theatre statewide and now nationwide news. He and his establishment are now mini-celebrities, and probably MAJOR ones where it counts: in his neighborhood of business.

Mr. Boardman is going to re-open his theatre (this weekend to show Open Season, apparently) to BOFFO boxoffice, the place will now be “on the map” for the locals and he’ll undoubtedly get some devoted repeat-customers for his “stance.” And good for him. This is American ingenuity and creative-thinking at it’s best, and for his saavy as a self-promoter Mr. Boardman has my salute and my admiration; ANYONE who can pull a stunt this transparent and have THIS many people buy it is a flat-out master. His kung-fu is strong indeed.


Tim said...

Actually the part about him not being compelled to show a movie may not be true depending on who and how his film booker operates.

The lower cost ones who thrive with independent theatres will often shill for studios, offering only certain product and making other ones 'unavailable' due to a supposed scarcity of prints. They can also demand a print be returned if it's committed elsewhere, not allowing the independent theater to show the previous week's movie again.

Bob said...

Achem's razor here: Which of the two is the more likely scenario?

That all of the several dozen major film studios, hundreds of distributors, thousands of distribution channels, private print-owners, EVERYONE loosely-conspired in such a way as to ensure that "Jackass 2" and ONLY "Jackass 2" was available for showing at a two-screen indie theater in Northern Cali...

...OR a small businessman pulled novel, newsworthy stunt to attract attention and business?

T said...

A: It wasn't just Jackass 2. He refused to show the Covenant as well.

And B: It doesn't have to be a mass conspiracy. Most independent theatres are tied to a single film booker. If that booker doesn't want to get you the film (especially considering they get much more money to book you larger studio films), you'd have to switch over to someone else and that takes time. They can also hold you over a barrel by only allowing you prints of certain films you want if you carry ones they want you to and for a set time frame. It could be he had to carry those two movies to fulfill a commitment but decided he'd pay the rental fees out of pocket and not show them to prove a point to whoever books his movies.

You really think we wanted to carry the Guardian at our theater?

T said...

It's also worth noting that his comments completely go against your analysis of his criticisms of Jackass. He's not trying to play to both conservatives and liberals since not everyone thinks in those terms. In the interviews he's given he's quick to point out he was happy to show Miami Vice (an extremely violent film. Take that liberals!) and Brokeback Mountain (take that conservatives!).

Could it actually be that considering the amount of money and care he's put into his theater from the up to date sound system to the pattern of carpet installed in the lobby... Could be he's willing to risk losing such a large amount of box office by turning away what was reported to be many upset customers and to pay his staff for two weeks while they remained closed... could it be that he would face criticism from the community for presuming to tell them what should be shown and risk losing regular customers...

...why could it actually be he just has some pride in his theater and what it shows? Could it be he wants his theater to have a reputation for showing quality films and not whatever the studios offer? Could it be he wants to send a wake-up call about how he's going to run his theater?

Of course not. That would be silly, right? People don't act that way. It's a good thing that while THIS many people bought his obviously transparent stunt, you were smart and cynical enough to question his motives and not be fooled into thinking anyone could have anything but money and publicity in mind. My whole world view was in jeopardy for a second.

Bob said...

"Could it be he wants his theater to have a reputation for showing quality films and not whatever the studios offer? Could it be he wants to send a wake-up call about how he's going to run his theater?"

How, exactly, is that anything but a much more pleasant way of saying exactly what I said? "He wants his theater to have a reputation," fine. Agreed. And you get a reputation by doing things that draw attention. "Sending a wake-up call" is, by definition in these cases, a form of PUBLICIZING oneself.

How many ways can I say this? I DON'T object to this guy in any way. I dig him. He's shrewd, clever, willing to take a risk, thinks outside the box, my kind of guy.

I think he took what was a sincere and appreciable distate for a certain circumstance and turned it into one of the best small-business attention-getter stunts of the last few years. I wanna meet the guy, I bet we have a lot in common. I was just genuinely shocked to see that many people swallow the whole hook, is all. I'm in awe of Greg Boardman.