Inspired by the success of Record Store Day, Gabriel Chicoine of Amherst Cinema in Amherst, Massachusetts, and Lawren Desai of a/perture cinema in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, co-founded the first ever Art House Theater Day, which is Saturday (Sept. 24).
About 160 theaters across the country are participating, including The Frida Cinema in Santa Ana, which has three special screenings planned to celebrate.
Like many participating theaters, The Frida will show Janus Films’ new 2K digital restoration of the 1981 classic Time Bandits. (Janus is an Art House Theater Day sponsor along with Amazon Studios, Warner Archive, Magnolia Pictures, Film Comment magazine, Bright Ideas Magazine, the CineLife mobile app, the Indiegogo crowdfunding site, Eclair audio-visual services company, New York-based film distributor GKIDS and the Art House Convergence industry group.)
Supervised by director Terry Gilliam—with a new uncompressed stereo soundtrack—the restored Time Bandits is still a trippy fantasy that follows young history buff Kevin, who watches six little people emerge from his closet one night. (Hate it when that happens.) Former employees of the Supreme Being, this troupe of intergalactic adventurers stole a map charting all of the holes in the fabric of time, and are using it to steal treasures from different historical eras. Kevin and these time bandits variously drop in on Napoleon (Ian Holm), Robin Hood (John Cleese) and King Agamemnon (Sean Connery) before the Supreme Being catches up with them for an explosive showdown.
The first 75 people who arrive at The Frida for Time Bandits get a limited edition 14×18-inch reproduction of the Time Portal Map used in the film, designed by Gilliam and courtesy of Janus Films. The show starts at 11 a.m. Saturday at the cinema, 305 E. 4th St., Santa Ana. Tickets are just $7.
If there were a main event to Art House Theater Day, it would be the screening of Don Coscarelli’s 1979 horror opus Phantasm: Remastered. This “loving” 4K restoration from the original camera negative and brand new 5.1 audio soundtrack were overseen by longtime Phantasm fan J.J. Abrams and his production company Bad Robot.
The story has a young man (Michael Baldwin) investigating why residents of a small town have begun dying under strange circumstances, leading him straight to the local mortician, the Tall Man (Angus Scrimm).
Following the film, a Q&A is beamed into The Frida from Alamo Drafthouse, where Coscarelli and cast members are attending their own screening at Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas.
“When I made Phantasm three decades ago, the term ‘indie’ didn’t have the same positive connotations that it does today,” Coscarelli has said. “But that’s what Phantasm was. And in the decades since, the art house movement has cultivated an appreciation for independent films that break molds and push boundaries. That’s why it doesn’t surprise me that in 2016, art houses have embraced Phantasm and are giving it new life on Art House Theater Day. It’s really a dream come true to see it playing in so many exceptional theaters on the big screen, the way I originally intended.”
I'm not sure Coscarelli originally intended someone like me to view it as I did at a midnight screening when it first came out. (Read all about it in the current Special Screenings.)
The film will hit you like a flying silver sphere starting at 8 p.m. Saturday at The Frida, where tickets are $8-$10.
The final Art House Theater Day entry at The Frida is a late night screening of The Room, the 2003 “sensual indie thriller” written, directed, produced by and starring Tommy Wiseau. He plays amiable banker Johnny, who along with his fiancée Lisa (Juliette Danielle) is having a grand old time in a gorgeously shot San Francisco. However, everything changes when Johnny's conflicted best friend Mark (Greg Sestero) joins in to form a love triangle.
Mladen Milicevic, Jarah Gibson, Clint Gamboa, Kitra Williams & Reflection contribute music to The Room, which has been dubbed “the Citizen Kane of bad movies” although, according to The Frida, it's “a modern classic.” (I didn't realize until pulling the photo for this week's Special Screenings that I saw this years ago on cable television. Let's just say I agree more with the Kane description and leave it at that.)
The Santa Ana theater invites audience members to come dressed as their favorite The Room character (or Wiseau in real life!) for consideration in a costume contest. The show starts at 11:30 p.m. and tickets are $8-$10.
It's not part of Art House Theater Day, but the Manhattan Short Film Festival 2016 shares that same indie spirit. The world’s first global film festival—and the only one where audience members join voters from around the world in crowning the award-winning shorts—makes its triumphant return to The Frida at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, when tickets are $7, and 7:30 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, when those prices rise to $8-$10.
The lineup was still being put together as this post went up, but last year’s fest drew more than 700 entries from 52 countries, and votes from Santa Ana complemented tallies from Europe, Argentina, South Africa and Sri Lanka, just to name a few.
For more information on these and other presentations at The Frida Cinema, visit thefridacinema.org.
Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.