Today is the official re-opening of the Marshall Cinema. It is an exciting day for Marshall, as the news that the theater would close came as a crushing blow to the town. It's an even more exciting day for a cineaste like myself. I love movies. I live movies. Although I'm a great fan of the fine Galaxy Cinema in Sedalia and their wonderful staff, I--like many Marshallites--am proud to be from a town with its very own cinema.
I'm sure I wasn't alone on Tuesday afternoon when I noticed the cinema marquee announcing the three opening weekend movies--"The Social Network", a recounting of the founding of the social media website Facebook; "Secretariat", an inspiring family sports flick about the woman behind the first race horse to win the triple crown in 25 years back in 1973, and "Paranormal Activity 2", the sequel to last year's wickedly frightening phenomenon, which made my 2009 top ten list. I want to see them all, even the one I've already seen.
All this excitement had me chomping at the bit to get in that cinema, so I decided to walk over and have a chat with the new owner/operator, Kim Thompson. With workers running about us, like industrious Umpa Lumpas making chocolate in Wonka's chocolate factory, Thompson and I had a heartfelt conversation about the cinema, movies, and a town that would be missing part of its heart without this cinema. It was apparent from almost our first words that most of the fears I'd expressed in the blog I wrote in August about the announcement that the cinema would re-open were unfounded. Kim loves movies and the cinema in which she grew up watching them.
We discussed the difficulties of independent cinema management. Thompson says she spent the first couple of weeks of their renovation process just going over the exhibition contracts with the studios. She said that some of the contracts were 57 pages long, and anyone who has scrolled to the bottom of the iTunes legal agreement and just clicked "agree" knows what wonderful reading material a legal contract can be. Many people may not realize how little choice an exhibitor has over what movies they get or what can be done with those movies once they have it in house.
That fact that Thompson was able to land a print of "Paranormal Activity 2" shows a great deal of gumption on her part, however. She told me her booker had initially informed her she couldn't get a print of it. Thompson fought for it because it was the only wide release movie opening this weekend. "We're a first run theater. We need to have a first run movie in on opening weekend," she said.
After a while, Thompson invited me in to see the lobby that I had wondered about for weeks as workers piled heaps of garbage from inside the theater's blackened doors for the past several weeks. I'm not a man who gets astounded by much, but even in the not quite finished state it was in on Tuesday evening, I was awe struck. From the new movie reel carpeting to the beautiful copper plated ceiling to the pair of chandeliers, everything I saw seemed just about perfect. Even the old-fashioned ticket booth that Thompson hadn't quite figured out how to incorporate brought me back to an age of movie going that I hadn't even lived through. Thompson has fashioned the Marshall Cinema into a true classic movie house, in the lobby at least. She promises renovations to the theaters themselves once the cinema is off and running.
Of course, some less noticeable renovations have already been made inside the theaters, including a new $50,000 HVAC system and new sound systems installed by the Vox Box in each theater. Thompson also promises lowered prices and new menu items. I, for one, plan on being in a seat tonight with a tray of nachos in my hand and a huge smile on my face waiting for the lights to dim.