It’s been an emotional week. Saying goodbye to The Maple as I’ve known it since childhood elicits a strange mix of nostalgia and excitement for the future. My movie-going week was a rollercoaster of masterful filmmaking as I took in showings of The Godfather, The Dark Knight Rises, Beasts of the Southern Wild and Annie Hall. And of course the horrifying tragedy in Aurora, Colorado put all these joyous, constructive experiences into perspective by reminding everyone, but especially every cinema lover that the fragile veneer of innocence we create every time we step into a darkened auditorium is just that: fragile. Vulnerable. Pure.
“This weekend we’ll go out. We’ll go to the city, see a show and have dinner, I promise.”
– Michael Corleone The Godfather (1972)
To be told a story we can take into ourselves and make a part of our lives – this is all we ask when go to the movies, attend a play, pick up a book. Storytelling is ingrained into the fiber of our existence from the time we’re born. My earliest memories of going to the movies begin around The Little Mermaid and Batman –two films I can recall vividly and as a result they’ve indelibly shaped me. Years later I still adore animation. I still love comic book heroes.
Watching The Godfather and Annie Hall during our “Secret Cinema” series, I felt a sense of excitement and grandeur that was something less like watching The King’s Speech or The Avengers and more like watching The Little Mermaid for the first time again (fragile, vulnerable, pure). The movies were familiar yet seeing them on the big screen created that indescribable escape that is somewhat diminished as one gets older. Maybe diminished is the wrong word. “Shifts” is more accurate. Tastes mature, opinions form, and your gaze shifts. You are no longer the child watching the Disneyfied fables of Hans Christian Andersen. You are no longer the teenager transfixed by the hidden wonders of suburbia displayed in American Beauty. You are no longer the college student cramped between friends at a midnight premier of Batman Begins.
“Don’t worry Master Wayne, takes a little time to get back in the swing of things.”
– Alfred Pennyworth The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
“Movies for people who love movies” is a tagline we’ve kicked around. It’s cheesy, I’ll be the first to admit, but it conveys a plain truth that belies its simplicity – how many people still love going to the movies? I’m not talking about the hordes upon hordes that descend into the multiplexes for every installment in the rapidly expanding Marvel universe. Their love is a fiery love and it shall never falter. I’m talking about the art house mavens, the social moviegoers, the retirees who see every French film that comes stateside. These groups continue to show up, but do they still love going to the movies? The answer in many unfortunate cases is, “no” due to myriad factors, not least among them increasing prices, outdated facilities, disruptive audience behavior, and exceedingly attractive home theater options that are both visually stunning and easy on the wallet. But this should not be. If you’re reading this, you likely don’t need me to tell you that the movie theater provides an experience approaching the religious. The communal sense of elation and release that comes when watching a great movie in a room full of strangers is impossible to replicate and, unfortunately, very easy to upset. If that’s not reason enough: we’re building a projection booth capable of both digital and film presentations that makes high-def TV look like Youtube. As a picture quality junkie, Netflix just doesn’t cut it.
So we’ve got the visual, you’ll bring the communal, but where’s the flair, that je nes sais quoi personified by Diane Keaton’s wardrobe or Quvenzhané Wallis’ impassive face? “Secret Cinema” is only one facet of the glittering Maple gem we’ll be striving to shape over the next few months, but it’s one of great importance and significance. Over the past week the turnout for the trial run of this quirky experiment far exceeded our expectations. While admittedly brazen (“you mean you’re really not going to tell me what the movie is until I’m sitting in the theater?”), we had the best of intentions: facilitate the love for movies and that sweet escape that somehow, for some reason, only a surprise viewing of E.T. can inspire.
We’re planning to host “Secret Cinema” twice a month after we reopen in the fall and all of you are going to be invited to curate the selections. In addition to a free rewards program, we’ll be rolling out “The Maple Club” – a yearly paid membership that gives you extremely personalized service, discounts, concessions, and a chance to put your seal of approval on a movie before showing it to a roomful of people who have no clue what they’re about to watch. Think of it as a psychic transference of cinematic appreciation, or for a less Lynchian analogy: paying it forward.
“The whole universe depends on everything fitting together just right. If one piece busts, even the smallest piece… the whole universe will get busted.”
Hushpuppy Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
When I walked into the Henry Ford IMAX Friday morning to watch The Dark Knight Rises, I saw a room vibrant with passion for cinema. This did not stop me from tensing up every single time a gun was fired onscreen. But it did speak volumes to the richness of spirit and sheer perseverance we humans can muster in times of turmoil. Thoughts of the victims of the shooting in Aurora have not left my mind all weekend and I do not expect them to leave any time soon. After the funerals have taken place, the memorials have been observed, and the wounds have healed, there will still be the lingering “Why?” which of course will never be answered, and the haunting thought that, just like me so many times, those few hundred people only wanted to watch a movie.
Writers and critics far more talented and articulate than I have discussed this event and the pain caused by the losses, so I won’t dwell on it here, but know that we intend to keep The Maple a safe and sacred public space for everyone to enjoy. In times like this we must look forward, however, ever careful not to lose our way in circular political debates and finger-pointing. We must endure and continue to do our duties for the sake of those who were barred from doing so by a madman with worthless evil in his heart.
“No, I can’t go into a movie that’s already started…”
Alvy Singer Annie Hall (1977)
And look toward to the future we shall. The movie hasn’t started yet. We’re still in the previews. We’ve got a few months to get to know each other and I hope you will be brutally honest with me in regard to what you would like to see happen with the theater. I’ll be posting here regularly, at least three times a week, so there will be plenty of time to go over all the details of our plans. Surely there are aspects of the programming and services provided by the theater that fall under the “if it ain’t broke…” category, but the building itself needs vast and various improvements so it only seems right to introduce new and exciting ways to enjoy cinema along with the new facilities that are there to just plain enjoy. It’s going to be an interesting journey full of triumph and setback, as most all endeavors in life are, but we’ll be taking plenty of semi-proficient photographs of it all so you can have a front row seat even while our doors are locked. We can’t thank you enough for being with us along the way.