Chatting With The Creators Of Cinema Overdrive Part 4

This is the fourth and final of my great rambling conversation with Denver Hill and Matt Pennechi – 2 of the creators of the great new series “Cinema Overdrive” running at the Colony Theater in North Raleigh. Tomorrow night at 8:00 PM they’ve got the mighty THE EVIL DEAD (btw the awesome poster above is by Carrboro artist Danny Miller and prints will be sold at the show) and next week on the 28th, just in time for Halloween, they’ve got an extremely rare 35 MM print of the1987 cult classic THE MONSTER SQUAD. In this not so tidy conclusion of our talk Denver, Matt, and I talk about those 2 upcoming films and we hit other tangents like obscure movie trailers, audience participation etiquette, and how you’re going to get a lot of bang for your 5 bucks every time out.


Dan: So, right before Halloween you’ve got THE MONSTER SQUAD with a special guest…


Denver: Yes, the star – Andre Gower – is coming to introduce the film and do a Q and A.


Matt: Yeah, he happens to live in Cary. He’s a child actor – in addition to THE MONSTER SQUAD and a bunch of other stuff he played George C. Scott’s son for 2 seasons on the Fox TV show “Mr. President”! He said: “Getting chewed out by George C. Scott is kind of a badge of honor!” I was like: “Really? He was gruff?” He said: “He could be but the thing is, looking back on it now, 22 years later…I was taken under the wing of George C. Scott who treated me like his son.” I asked: “Do you ever reflect on that?” He was like, oh yeah, it doesn’t matter that he’s not famous, that he’s not a multi-millionaire, he still has those really great memories. THE MONSTER SQUAD is a great movie which I really enjoy. Do you have kids?


Dan: No I don’t.


Matt: I have an 8 year old I may actually bring to that.


Denver: Yeah, THE MONSTER SQUAD is one of the only movies we’re showing for Cinema Overdrive that’s for all ages.


Matt: That’s our only PG-13. The goal for the series is not to be R-rated and above, the goal is to find really fascinating films. We picked another mainstream cult favorite – Denver was like “let’s break out that THE EVIL DEAD print!” It’s a more famous title but it’ll be fun. EVIL DEAD II runs a lot, the first one not so much. Our print is a little beat up so we’re calling it “THE EVIL DEAD: THE GRINDHOUSE EXPERIENCE”! That’s basically because the print we’ll be running is an original release print from the early 1980s. Even though this film did become a modest grindhouse and drive in hit, there weren’t a lot of 35mm prints of it struck back during its original release, and those that did survive were put through the ringer a bit. So scratches and splices will be present on the screen, much like they would have been had you seen the film several months (or even a year!) into its original theatrical release back in 1983. But in a lot of ways it adds a bit of warmth to the screening that simply cannot be dupicated in a home setting, and many of our regular patrons have commented that they actually enjoy seeing a few bumps and bruises here and there. And the trailers we’ve selected for this show are great fun and will add to the experience as well.


Dan: Well, like most folks I’m more familiar with EVIL DEAD II and ARMY OF DARKNESS. Years and years ago I saw the first one not long after seeing the second and it really confused me. I was like “isn’t this the same movie?”


Matt: It is the same movie. They remade it and kind of changed the tone. Another thing we’ve thought about doing was asking local film writers like you, Zack Smith, and Craig D. Lindsey to pick 3 or 4 trailers. I’ll send you the list and you tell me what your heart’s content and we’ll run them for you!


Dan: Oh, I love that idea.


Matt: We have a great opportunity because we’re not running double features and a lot of these movies are very short. So for 5 bucks we want to give you an hour and 45 minutes to 2 hours of really fun entertainment. I mean a movie like DEATH RACE 2000 is only 75 minutes so a 20 minute trailer package isn’t a problem!


Dan: The trailer component I really love about both “Cool Classics” and “Cinema Overdrive”. I mean I kind of had a feeling that this would be the case, but before THE BIG LEBOWSKI I was like ‘it would be so cool if they dug up some obscure Jeff Bridges or John Goodman trailers and sure enough –there they were!



Denver: (laughs) Yeah, there was SOMEBODY KILLED HER HUSBAND with Bridges and Farah Fawcett.


Dan: That got the biggest laughs of the night!


Matt: Yeah, I don’t remember the timing of that but it was around when Farah died.


Denver: She died like a week later. That was crazy. The trailer is weird because it starts out as a tribute to Farah Fawcett – “Farah – you know her, you love her…” Even before we decided to do Cinema Overdrive, Matt was giving me all these trailers to play. Like the really funny ones before ERASERHEADCHICKEN CHRONICLES and there was that other one with Bud Cort


Matt: DIE LAUGHING?


Denver: Yeah.


Matt: I didn’t realize how highly sought after that one was. That’s the thing though – going to the movies should be a fun social experience. What we are adamant about is – we want people to have a good time but not at the expense of somebody else’s good time. This is not Mystery Science Theater 3000 it’s more like…church.


Dan: That’s what bugged me about THE BIG LEBOWSKI showing – I mean everybody knows that script but I don’t need to hear a line said before it happens, while it’s being said, then after it! I could understand a few random lines, sure, but there was a girl behind me spouting out the entire screenplay!


Matt: The truth is you are not more entertaining than anything the film has to offer you anyway. I know there are other film series across the country where they encourage people to come and yell and make fun but that’s not my thing. I don’t feel irreverently about the movies! I know they are trash but some of them are awfully fun. And for a lot of people, like myself, I think when you do that you’re disrespectful and totally omit the fact that there might be a lot of people who are sitting there that actually really want to see this movie – they have never seen it before and they just want to see it.


Dan: It didn’t bother me so much during LABYRINTH because I got the spirit but I still got a little annoyed at the unending noise of it.


Matt: A friend of mine told me that he doesn’t like to run LEBOWSKI anymore – too many frat boys. He said “I love this movie but honestly the audience is kind of wrecking it for me.” It used to be fun but as it has grown…it’s grown annoying. A lot of films that are considered ‘cult classics’ have developed such a life beyond the screen that they often attract an audience that doesn’t care much about the ritual of going to a repertory screening at all. And while that isn’t always a bad thing, it can become one when things like getting ridiculously drunk and talking over the film are more important than enjoying what the film has to offer. A lot of my associates in the cinema business who do repertory programming have actually developed disdain towards running certain titles simply because of the audience they attract, and that really is unfortunate. While we do want our audiences to come out and have a great time, ultimately it is about the film on screen first and foremost.


Dan: Definitely. I mean, the ROCKY HORROR thing…that movie has this niche where there’s the audience participation thing that’s scripted with people adding new things but the thing is – it only seems to work for that one movie.

Denver: We have had that problem before. THE PRINCESS BRIDE had a lot of audience noise but mostly it hasn’t been too bad. With “Cinema Overdrive” though the thing is, people aren’t going to know the scripts.

Thanks so much Denver and Matt for this extremely insightful and entertaining chat!


If you live in the Triangle area please make it out to the Colony Theater in Raleigh for both “Cinema Overdrive” and “Cool Classics”.


Also, if you haven’t already, please check out the previous parts of our talk – Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

More later…

Classic Films On The Big Screen In The Triangle Area

Prenote: This post is extremely localized about theaters in my area that show old movies so it might not appeal to some of my readers. However, I think it’s possible that out-of-towners will find some interest and may be inspired to comment about revival showings at theaters near them.

The summer season is overflowing with movie choices, but many in the Triangle may not know that there is a welcome antidote to the mind numbing “event movies” arriving weekly at the multiplexes. Favorite films from years past, both classic and cult, are being shown at a number of theaters and venues in the area alongside current releases. These screenings give moviegoers a chance to see on the big screen films they’ve loved before on television or DVD, or heard about but never seen, in all their 35 millimeter glory. Plus, they’re typically not as expensive as first run films.


Built in 1926, The Carolina Theater in Durham has a great reputation for revival shows with their popular weekend series of horror movies: “Retrofantasma” and a summer series that this year includes double features of Robert De Niro (“Taxi Driver”, “The Untouchables”), Alfred Hitchcock (“Rear Window” and “Vertigo”, Steven Spielberg (“Jaws and “Indiana Jones and the Temple Of Doom”)and John Belushi (“Animal House” and “The Blues Brothers”) features. “Retrofantasma”, billed as “a joyful jolt of terror and nostalgia”, has a dedicated audience for a roster ranging from “Silent Night, Bloody Night” to the tongue in cheek “Clue”. They may be scratchy old prints for the most part, but there’s no denying the thrill of seeing famous film history writ large.


Located in North Raleigh, The Colony Theater caters to the cult crowd; the kids who grew up on Lucas and Spielberg but leaned towards Tarentino and Lynch as they matured. “Cool Classics @ The Colony” has showcased a multitude of films with fanatic followings such as “Purple Rain”, “Eraserhead”, “Pulp Fiction” and “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”. After 3 successful years they are starting a new series: “Cinema Overdrive” which will feature far out and obscure oddities like “Death Race 2000” (starring the recently deceased David Carradine) and Frank Zappa’s “200 Motels”.

Colony Theater General Manager Denver Hill, a film buff and 35 MM film collector, said that the “Cool Classics” often “do a lot better than the usual films” as it’s been “slow for indie films lately.” Hill, who has worked for the theater since 2002, also remarked that he expected the June 16th and 17th showings of the late 90’s Coen Brothers cult classic “The Big Lebowski” to make more money than the current well reviewed Broadway documentary “Every Little Step.” “Lebowski”, is a repeat performance as Hill explains: “90% of the films have been customer requests.”


The North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh offerings may be a bit more highbrow, but they are just as crowd pleasing. Over the fast few decades there have been many film festival of such icons as Woody Allen and such noted genres as “film noir”. It should be noted that they could benefit from having more than one screening in the winter when movies are shown in their auditorium; multiple times when I tried to attend showings they were sold out or only single seats remained. This is a non-issue in the summer season as they have outdoor screenings that can accommodate more people (of course, those can get rained out). This year the highlights will be a Watergate revisited weekend with “All The President’s Men” and “Frost/Nixon”, a tribute to Paul Newman with a showing of “The Sting”, and at the end of August a 70th anniversary showing of “Gone With The Wind” with an accompanying documentary “The Making Of A Legend.”


The Koka Booth Amphitheatre in Cary, in their “Movies By Mooonlight” Summer series shows mostly movies from the last year (“Twilight”, “Kug Fu Panda”, “Iron Man”, etc.) but does offer a few older titles: “Moonstruck” and “Wait Until Dark” are showing this Summer. Be forewarned: Koka booth rarely shows 35 MM prints (the last one was 3 years ago: the legendary “The Creature From The Black Lagoon”) – the films are projected from a DVD. Still, it’s a beautiful venue and a fine evening be had with the right companion, lawn-chairs and beverages.


The Galaxy Theater in Cary often screens older films, in the last year they’ve presented an overlooked beautifully restored Charlie Chaplin film – “Monsieur Verdoux” as well as “Lawrence Of Arabia” and “Double Indemnity.” The theater, which is something of an art-house multiplex, has several popular series such as the “Undiscovered Gem Series”, the “Silver Screen Spring Series”, and like a number of local theaters, a “Kids Summer Movie Series” that runs on weekday mornings.


And for almost 20 years there’s been the Friday midnight showing of the “Rocky Horror Picture Show” * at The Rialto. Via email, Ambassador Entertainment owner Bill Peeples said that “attendance is high and consistent” for the long running late show that has played “every Friday at midnight since December, 1989.” Peeples, who with the Rialto owns the Colony, Six Forks, and Mission Valley Theaters hosts “Cinema, Inc”, billed as Raleigh’s oldest and finest non-profit film society offering classic film presentations once a month on Sunday night.


With the possible closing of the Varsity and Chelsea Theaters in Chapel Hill, one might wonder if more revival screenings might have changed their fate. This spring at the Chelsea, a retrospective of director Mark Rydell (including “On Golden Pond” and “The Rose”) drew respectable crowds so it shows that there is definitely an audience for vintage cinema in this area. If the historic Varsity and Chelsea theaters are to continue operation I hope they embrace the past as they look to the future.


Post note: For more information like show-times and directions and please click on the theater’s names in the article.


* I just blogged about seeing “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” for the first time – read the post here.

More Later…

Hey, I Finally Saw…THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW!

For almost 20 years the Rialto Theater in Raleigh has presented the cult classic THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW every Friday at Midnight. Despite hearing many amusing tales of sordid audience-interactive escapades that would occur during each showing, I had never attended before last night. I have seen parts of the movie on television and have heard songs from the soundtrack but knew those didn’t count compared to the actual experience. However I didn’t expect to be branded a “virgin” with a lipstick “v” on my head and forced to do a dance move twist in a line mashed together with other virgins – but hey! If that’s the drill then so be it.

After that stupid spectacle, the real stupid spectacle began – the movie started and a cast of young folks (some looked like teenagers) mimicked the action onscreen. They came dressed like their respective characters and lip-synced their lines, some dead on, some less so. It was loud and chaotic, often indecipherable and yet it was a lot of fun. We threw rice, rolls of toilet paper, and playing cards (they sell prop bags if you come empty handed) at the crucial moments while obvious audience regulars shouted their snarky comebacks (“call backs” I’m told) at the screen.

My wife told me that it wasn’t quite like the ROCKY HORROR shows she had seen in the past. Some of the “call backs” were new additions with recent references which I’m told on the internets, if applauded, are added to the ongoing repertoire. She also said the “underwear run” wasn’t a part of any of the shows she had been to before (she had seen RHPS countless times at the now defunct AMC Fashion Village 8 in Orlando, Florida back in the late 80’s and early 90’s).

You might notice I’m not speaking about the plot (or lack thereof) and that’s because it’s the least important part of the whole shebang. The premise of a conservative couple (Barry Bostwick and Susan Sarandon – “Saran-wrap” goes one of the “call-backs”) who, one dark and dreary evening, find themselves in a castle surrounded by sexual deviants holding an Annual Transylvanian Convention is just an excuse for extravagant musical numbers and outrageous sci-fi shenanigans. Tim Curry’s transsexual Dr. Frank N. Furter with his Mick Jaggeresque delivery and slimy charm steals the show, but he has stiff competition from Meat Loaf in one uproarious rowdy rock number.

As a “movie guy” who just moved to Raleigh, I couldn’t go much longer without finally taking in the Rialto tradition of RHPS. It didn’t disappoint and it was fascinating to find out afterwards that the players call themselves The Low Down Cheap Little Punks – here’s their website.

If you haven’t seen THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW – I bet there’s a theater near you that has the same tradition albeit likely different presentations. It’s impressive that this film that originally flopped and was bashed by critics became the ultimate midnight movie celebrated in cities all over the world every weekend. It’s a great legacy for what is, honestly, a weird-ass kind of crappy movie. Without a doubt, the soundtrack and the outrageous spirit of it all win out at every show.

More later…