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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.

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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!

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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.

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Comments

Cinevent June 7, 2011 @ 2:40 p.m.

"Mixed blessing?" Try beyond a blessing, because the place already looks a THOUSAND percent better than it ever did. Before you go back to the Village, have a look at any typical multiplex.

No one triplexes a cinema to show the same thing on all 3 screens, and no one has said they will here. My guess is the two other rooms are still being perfected and they are just debuting the big room first.

After you've actually experienced the new theater, I look forward to seeing you gush with at least as much gusto and detail as you put into this rant! And I'm convinced you will. Not only will the community come here often, I think you'll see people (like me) coming from miles away because it's a better experience then what they have.

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Scott Marks June 7, 2011 @ 10:54 p.m.

I'm a purist, Cinevent, who never forgets a botched screening. If anything, I treasure them! My "mixed blessing" remark referred to the lack of a back up 35mm projector (I'm a sentimental soul) and the addition of the two screens. Don't you think a single-screen theatre is a bit of a relic that might have attracted a bigger draw than another multiplex? It would be like triplexing The Ken. I have no doubt that the digital image on all three screens will be razor sharp. I have since made several inquiries around town concerning Vintage Cinemas and by all accounts they put on a class presentation. I am looking forward to the gala opening and pray that I don't have a "Nutty Professor" flashback.

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Cinevent June 8, 2011 @ 1:56 a.m.

Keep in mind the realities of booking a movie into a cinema. Studios don't just let you kick it out after a couple of weeks. Can you honestly say that the 25,000 folks in Coronado can fill up 600 seats for four showings a day of the same movie for six to eight weeks? Then what about all the other movies out there that you couldn't book? And if you think this place will be just another multiplex, you haven't been paying attention. As for 35mm, nothing says they won't, but in the era of multiple print runs and platters, how often can you get a reliably good image in 35mm? I can be just as jaded and cynical as the next three or four guys, but in this case it's clearly not just a glass half full, it's overflowing. I think the classic ambiance, comfort of the widely spaced rows, and "class presentation" will be a much bigger draw than playing the same movie for two months to 600 tightly packed (and probably at least half empty) seats.

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Scott Marks June 8, 2011 @ 8:01 p.m.

My guess is they would have done just as much business had they played the freak factor and kept it a single screen. And who says they have to book only Hollywood hits? I would have preferred they chosen the Hillcrest or Gaslamp route instead of following the mainstream. Do you think people are going to cross the bridge to see "Cars 2" or "Green Lantern" when it's playing on 20 other screens? No, but they might make the effort to see something that isn't otherwise saturating the market. And they could have pulled 50 or so seats to give a little added legroom. No matter, I think the islanders are going to be very loyal to the theatre and I can't wait to see how they've spruced it up. Thank god Book Star didn't beat them to it.

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Cinevent June 8, 2011 @ 8:45 p.m.

If a single screen booked as you suggest were viable (profitable) in today's world, we would see a lot of them. But it's not, so we don't. I'm not happy about that, but it's a fact. In LA, plenty of people bypass the most popular plexes and travel further to see the same movie at VC's Vista. There's a reason for that. You'll see. And no one said they will just be booking Hollywood hits. I'm not saying it'll perfectly satisfy your every whim, (or mine) but you will have much more to celebrate than criticize, and I look forward to hearing that.

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Scott Marks June 8, 2011 @ 9:28 p.m.

I dunno why, but something tells me that we're bound to meet on June 23. Please, introduce yourself.

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Cinevent June 9, 2011 @ 1:27 a.m.

I'll be tied up elsewhere, so you're going to have to fill me in. Hopefully you'll bring a camera. Your account of the dive it used to be was entertaining. Looking forward to at least the same emphatic detail on the redux. If the purists are pleased, the public should plotz. ; )

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