Watching the recently concluded Newport Beach Film Festival's opening-night film Crashhere, it occurred to me that when it comes to staving off competition from TV, cable, satellite, videotapes, DVDs and whatever else the Japanese have in store for us, the movie industry would be better off investing in places like this than it would your local shopping center's enormoplex and its 439 walk-in closets. After all, people are building the equivalent of those in their own homes. I emerged from "Big Newport" thinking Crashwas great, but I now wonder if my level of positivism was heightened by seeing the film on the biggest screen around (40 by 80 feet) with my fillings shaken loose by a Dolby Surround Sound system that'd knock your house off its foundation. This unique movie-watching experience just made the flick seem more, I dunno, important.And if you're really geeked by the next StarWars(May 19) or Batman(June 17) or DeuceBigalow(Aug. 12), "Big Newport" is theplace to see the blockbusters. Okay, it probably won't matter with DeuceBigalow."BigNewport"(a.k.a."BigEdwards,"asthisusedtobetheoldEdwardschain'sflagshiptheater)isadjacenttoRegal'sEdwardsIsland7,999NewportCenterDr.,NewportBeach,(949)640-1971.
Haven't gotten caught once here, and you get the feeling the minimum-wage staffers wouldn't do anything about it if they did catch you. Edwards"BigOne"Megaplex(a.k.a.EdwardsSpectrumStadium21),65FortuneDr.,Irvine,(949)450-4920.
Because there are only three screens, indie/art-house films desperately in need of nurturing generally stick around here longer than anywhere else in the county, which is a good thing. But because, I dunno—snooty Nordstrom is across the street?—those three films generally include in their casts Maggie Smith, Judi Dench or both. One thing about anything that does open here: it isn't supposed to be screening anywhere else in Orange County, as the Regal chain-gangers are very anal about the Village being the "exclusive" presenter of whatever it's splashing onto its crusty screens. There's plentiful seating and parking (try just around the corner if the lot directly in front of the box office is full), and the theater's partnership with Newport Beach Film Festival has produced Wednesday-night screenings that resurrect guilty pleasures for the big screen, including popular Hollywood popcorners from the past such as RaidersoftheLostArk(July 6), Ghostbusters(Aug. 24) and everyone's favorite, Tron(June 29). EdwardsSouthCoastVillage,1561W.SunflowerAve.,SantaAna(despitetheadsthatclaimit'sinless,ahem,ethnicallydiverseCostaMesa),(714)540-0594.
Palindromes.Oldboy.Don'tMove.InsideDeepThroat.TurtlesCanFly.Guerrilla:TheTakingofPattyHearst.NotreMusique.These are just some of the films over the past year or so that may have made it to other local screens, eventually, if University were not around, but it's very doubtful. Whether much- or little-buzzed about, chancy films that are the bane of bottom-line-eyeing theater chains do make their way to Uni's screens—Regal chain-owned screens, no less—thanks to dedicated staffers and bookers interested in keeping intriguing cinema alive in our little slice of Hooterville. It doesn't have the ultramodern conveniences of the monsterplexes, but it doesn't have the ultramodern annoyances either. And when the staff comes upon a little film that needs an extra push, they'll devise clever special events, prize giveaways and lobby displays to get the word out. Special mention also must be made of University's hardcore regulars, who let it be known quite strongly which titles should remain on the marquee from one Friday to the next. Just wish there were more screens and the Regal suits waited longer before pulling some films still searching for their audiences. EdwardsUniversity6(a.k.a.RegalUniversityTown6),4245CampusDr.,Irvine,(949)854-8811.