Jun Breung (Opinion): This CT theater sees a bigger picture of the future of cinema

Back on the horizon, a film colleague from a video store in Stamford called me to tell me he was closing and selling DVDs for a few dollars each.

My wife and I roared and bumped into as many classic gems and gems as possible (we found plenty, as most people were buying multi-storey fare).

The man in front of me in line asked the owner why she had closed the undercover.

“I just want to retire. I don’t want any journalist to come in and do one of these, ‘Death Video Store’ stories,” he replied. “Who needs that?”

I can appreciate the view from the other side of the screen.

One year ago, I wrote a column that revealed that Greenwich was without a movie theater for the first time since 1914. I didn’t get much feedback. Just another victim of the epidemic.

More movie theaters in Connecticut have closed in recent months, as indexed in a news story last week. Waterbury… Westbrook… Stonington… Branford… New Haven.

The story quoted Tom Jarrett, a film researcher at the University of New Haven, as saying that COVID arrived at a time when movie fans were embracing broadcasting, making it “sort of the final nail in the coffin” for theaters.

Television halted the golden age of Hollywood in the 1950s. The video allegedly killed the movie star circa 1980. VHS DVDs were erased and DVD broadcasts were cut off like paper on the rocks (however successful).

But movies are about art, not electronics. We shouldn’t need reminders 30 months into the coronavirus that cinema is still better appreciated on a big screen while our colleague surrounds us. We may be able to recognize an Edward Hopper painting on an American stamp, but that’s no way to experience the artwork.

So I’m not buying that the final credits are shown on the big screen.

Nor was Stewart Adelberg, executive director of the Avon Theater Film Center in Stamford. Adelberg responded to the story with a letter to the editor detailing how the independent theater has operated on the same Bedford Street location since 1939 and still shows “new releases, art house, documentaries, foreign language films, and even monthly cult classics.”

Avon is part of the reason I can’t imagine theaters fading to black. I thought she was dead once, but Avon is more flexible than Michael Myers in the “Halloween” movies.

Its 1939 opening was celebrated with signs, streamers, and signs that crossed Bedford Street, a band performance and a full-page advertisement at the Stamford Advocate featuring a theater built by Frank de Rich that looks essentially identical today. Blueprints used the name “The Colonial” to reflect their architecture, but someone clearly preferred to wink at Shakespeare.

For the next scene, imagine a “2000” title card and a montage of me walking to work season after season after Avon’s “Coming Soon” frame of 1998’s “Twice Upon a Yesterday” starring Penelope Cruz.

“For those who need a second chance” … read the slogan.

Avon got her second chance. After the theater closed, longtime lawyer columnist Don Russell (who was TV host Jackie Gleeson) expressed written hope that Avon would one day turn into a show of indie and foreign films.

Which is what Greenwich residents Deborah and Chuck Royce did, adding classics to that lineup when the doors reopened in 2004. When I brought my mom to Avon that year, she surprised me by saying she had been there before. She and a friend were taking a train from New Rochelle, New York, in the mid-1950s to go to Avon. A few years later, my wife and I walked off the stage on a Sunday to greet the rain. We turned around and bought tickets for the movie on the theater’s second screen. Later we took our son to a free show of “Polar Express” there when he was a little kid because I was too cheap to pay for what I thought would be a cameo in his first movie appearance. The child left his seat to stand only so he could climb up to the screen for a close-up of the final credits.

The big screen always invites the audience to think of a movie for the first time, even if the viewer has already seen it in miniature. I can’t imagine a better example than Adelberg gave on Friday. He came to Avon in 2019 after a 16-year career as president of Greenwich United Way. Adelberg had a lot of experience running non-profit organizations having originally worked as an actor/director, primarily on stage (recently returning for a role in “Laughter on the 23”).research and development Floor” at Curtain Call in Stamford). The movie wasn’t his cockpit, but Avon’s schedule is still in good hands with Adam Birnbaum, who has been the director of programming since its revival.

the 80The tenth The anniversary screening of a certain Hollywood classic convinced Adelberg that he had made the right move. Like many children of his generation, he watched “The Wizard of Oz” every year on network television in the 60s and 70s. He even directed a theatrical version of it. But he had never seen it the way it intended.

“That was the night when I said to myself, ‘This is great. I am really happy to be here,’” he recalls. “I know All a word. I can sing All Song. There is nothing I don’t know about this movie.

“But it was a different movie, watching it on screen, in a crowded house, hearing people laugh at parts I never thought was funny. Hearing people hiss at a witch. It was a completely different experience.”

That’s why I realize that theaters are important. This is how the movie was supposed to be seen.

So his advice is to find a movie that you think you’ve seen, and then watch it on the big screen. Then there are movies that don’t work without the audience, like “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” which Avon premieres October 27 (“Sure, you can watch it on TV, but who would?” Adelberg jokes).

Nobody pretends there’s the end of Hollywood in the next scene. The film industry continues to suffer from supply chain problems. Home theaters don’t go far. Some older movie buffs are still hesitant to return to the crowded theater.

But the artists will catch up. It can feel lonely in home theaters. And if Zoomers can be persuaded to buy vinyl records, they will likely be lured to theaters by a string of popcorn.

So let’s stop it with the “last image view” forecast. This is not the “end of the movie” story.

As the man said, who needs that?

John Breung is the editorial page editor for Stamford Advocate and Greenwich Time. jbreunig@scni.com; twitter.com/johnbreunig.


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