Robert Bush 11:18 p.m., May 25
By the time I landed in San Diego in January 2000, Coronado's Village Theatre was just months away from quietly slipping into semi-retirement. After 53 years (and the taint of How the Grinch Stole Christmas spread across its streamlined art deco marquee), the iris closed, leaving the island theatre-less for a little more than a decade.
I visited the Village but once, while on vacation in 1996. It was more of a mercy appointment to satisfy my desire to chart as many different single-screen theatres as there are stars in the sky. That afternoon's feature was The Nutty Professor, the Eddie Murphy remake of the marvelous, marvelous Jerry Lewis Technicolor classic.
To call the place a dump is an insult to shitholes everywhere. A slender, duct-taped-reupholstered brown bench extended across the long wall opposite the concession stand. There was more light in the theatre than in the lobby. A placard should have been placed above the entryway to alert the unwitting that through these doors lies the path to hell.
Turn it off...
The film was presented in the Miracle of GlaucomaRama, drive-in speaker sound, and appeared to have been focused with a trowel. A loose portion of the screen masking formed a permanent semicircle across the upper right-hand corner of the picture. You want hell? I've been to hell and back! The 16mm dye-transfer print of Donovan's Reef had to be returned in three hours, and all of the classrooms were booked. I was forced to watch it projected on the back of a white door. How about a 40th generation, 16mm dupe print (with a motor boat soundtrack) of Hitchcock's Jamaica Inn projected in a converted church? It was so hot, I wanted to throw a chair through one of the numerous unopened windows and I'm still finding splinters after two hours spent parked in an ancient wooden pew!
Turn it offfff!!!
Nothing had prepared me for what I saw that Sunday afternoon at the Village. It was one of the most sickening public presentations of a film it has ever been my misfortune to witness. Having seen Murphy's Nutty a week before at the top of the mountain in Century City, I bailed after the first reel. Had there been any patrons in the lobby, I would surely have gone full Ethan Edwards on them: "Don't go in. Whatever you do, don't go in!"
The announcement by my old cinepal Joe Ditler, that the Village will be reopening their doors came as a bit of a mixed blessing for this old cinephile. On the one hand, it's great for the 25,000 island residents but it sure would have been nice if they had maintained the original 600-seat auditorium. This year, multiplexing came...as it must to all single screens...to Coronado's Village Theatre.
Vintage Cinemas, a chain that specializes in restoring classic theatres in the Los Angeles area, is behind the $3 million triplexing. The "big" auditorium seats 215 with two adjoining 45-seat "screening rooms." There is no mention of 35mm. All auditoriums come equipped with Sony Digital Cinema and Dolby Digital Sound with two out of three Real 3D friendly.
The Village promises "a long and varied selection of films to follow in the months to come," but for now we will just have to wait. They open with Cars 2 on June 24 at 12:01 a.m.
Wait a second. They multiplexed a single-screen theatre in order to show the same picture on three separate screens?! The mind boggles. I will be there opening night. A detailed report awaits.
The Village Theatre is located at 820 Orange Avenue, Coronado’s main drag. For more information call (619) 437-6161 or visit www.vintagecinemas.com.