November 22nd, 2011

carole lombard 02
  • vp19

Fighting for what's reel

Imagine seeing a classic Hollywood film, such as Carole Lombard's "The Princess Comes Across" (that's character actor Douglas Dumbrille alongside her)...but it's not quite what you deem it to be. No, the plot hasn't been altered -- Carole's still a Brooklyn showgirl trying to pass herself off as Swedish royalty aboard a transatlantic liner in order to crash Hollywood -- but something just seems a bit, er, different.

Something like that happened Sunday at the legendary Egyptian Theater on Hollywood Boulevard. As part of a celebration of Myrna Loy (an Egyptian Theater dancer in the early '20s), Emily Leider, who's written a new book on her, "Myrna Loy: The Only Good Girl In Hollywood," gave a slideshow and talk on the actress.

The Egyptian also showed Loy's 1934 movie "Manhattan Melodrama" (the only time Lombard's past husband, William Powell, appeared in the same cast with her future husband, Clark Gable).

Note I referred to "Manhattan Melodrama" as a movie, not a film. There's a reason for such terminology. As was noted at "Laura's Miscellaneous Musings" (

As a side note, today's screening at the Egyptian was digital. In recent years we've seen first-run films completely converting to digital, but apparently this is now becoming an issue regarding revival house screenings, and 35mm prints may be harder to come by in future years.

And many revival house proprietors aren't happy about it, including one of the key repertory theaters in Los Angeles, the New Beverly Cinema.

The theater's Julia Marchese wrote:

I work at the New Beverly Cinema in Los Angeles, California. We are a repertory double feature house that opened in 1978. We screen films from every decade of cinema -- from silents to foreign, independents, art house to contemporary. Films that make-up the glorious history of the art, that should be viewed as they were meant to be -- in a theater with fellow film lovers, projected from film.

We only show films on 35mm.

The major film studios have decided that they eventually want to stop renting all archival 35mm film prints entirely because there are so few revival houses left, and because digital is cheap and the cost of storing and shipping prints is high.

I firmly believe that when you go out to the cinema, the film should be shown in 35mm. At the New Beverly, we have never been about making money -- a double feature ticket costs only $8. We are passionate about cinema and film lovers. We still use a reel to reel projection system, and our projectionists care dearly about film, checking each print carefully before it screens and monitoring the film as it runs to ensure the best projection possible. With digital screenings, the projectionists will become obsolete and the film will be run by ushers pushing a button -- they don't ever have to even enter the theater.

The human touch will be entirely taken away. The New Beverly Cinema tries our hardest to be a timeless establishment that represents the best that the art of cinema has to offer. We want to remain a haven where true film lovers can watch a film as it was meant to be seen -- in 35mm. Revival houses perform an undeniable service to movie watchers -- a chance to watch films with an audience that would otherwise only be available for home viewing. Film is meant to be a communal experience, and nothing can surpass watching a film with a receptive audience, in a cinema, projected from a film print.

I feel very strongly about this issue and cannot stand idly by and let digital projection destroy the art that I live for. As one voice I cannot change the future, but hopefully if enough film lovers speak up, we can prove to the studios that repertory cinema is important and that we want 35mm to remain available to screen.

More than 3,700 people have signed a petition asking the industry's major studios to continue making 35mm films available to repertory houses; the goal is 10,000 signatures. To sign, or to learn more, go to After all, imagine Buster Keaton's masterpiece "Sherlock Jr." without a projector.

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