I was feeling a little cranky on Sunday afternoon. The Dodgers looked horrible in Colorado and I was facing a flight to Chicago for two days of being confined in a conference room with the lowest form of human life---work colleagues. How to get the funk out? A movie, of course.
Alright, I went to see Hairspray. I saw the show in LA several years ago and remembered liking it. But, while I am sure the movie followed the musical to a tee, it was totally a hallow cinematic experience. On the screen, Hairspray is energetic and empty at the same time. And I never once forgot that this was John Travolta in drag.
So, why did I leave with a smile on my face? Because I got to see it in one of those movie palaces that still manage to twinkle brightly in Los Angeles.
The Crest Theater is billed on the curtain adorning the screen as "your neighborhood movie theater." And it truly was my neighborhood for a while. I could easily walk to it from my old apartment. Sometime, a few years back, they started calling this "The Majestic Crest" in a nod to the Jim Carrey movie of the same name. Regardless, it is movie going the way it is supposed to be. Or perhaps the way it was. The theater is not huge by any stretch. The lobby is small. There is no balcony. But they have done a terrific job infusing the mood of movie going in the 40s and 50s. The marquee lights alone could illuminate a baseball game. Inside, the auditorium has been liberally seasoned with art deco. And the wall mural that surrounds the audience is one of Hollywood from the 1940s with a continuous painted landscape of old theaters, the Brown Derby, and even the first Ralph's supermarket.
The Crest was built in the 30s by Frances Fonda, Henry's second wife, and was designed for live theater. Somewhere, along the line, movies sifted in. Like all of us, the Crest went to seed over time. But, about ten years ago, its current owner came riding in like a storm trooper and restored order...and glory. The guy sunk a lot of coin into this and it's all there for us to see. And, surprisingly, the Crest is not affiliated with a bigger chain of theaters like AMC or Pacific. It's all him. For a while, he had a deal to exclusively show Disney films. But, now, he's trying to program it as best he can, hoping and praying for the occasional blockbuster. The guy's a one man band. He sells you your ticket. He rips your ticket. He also might wind up buttering your popcorn. I've wanted to stick around after a showing to see if he scrapes Red Vines off the floor.
They don't run annoying ads at the Crest. Usually one trailer. The parting of the curtain is a show in itself. It's done to the tune of "That's Entertainment." Meanwhile, there are shooting stars that dart across the ceiling. The experience makes even the worst movie palatable. It sure did on Sunday.
The owner has told me that there are plans to develop more office buildings on the block. He's holding his breath for the future.
So am I.
Dinner last night: Grilled bratwurst in the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field