Amy Beddows 5:26 p.m., June 18
Passing the digital baton
Out with the Spielberg, in with the DreamWorks at Reading Cinemas Grossmont Center 10
It was a day like any other. I wanted to go to the movies. Go ahead and snicker. You don't want to be around me on the rare occasion where I have to go a week without seeing something projected on a theatre screen.
I was desperate for a fix. Mr. Lickona's 9-year-old son, Elijah, had been on me for some time to take him to see Rise of the Guardians.
"But you have a DVD screener," I pleaded. "Yes," Elijah countered, "but I want to see it on the screen."
Any child smart enough to beat me at my own game must be rewarded.
We arrived at Reading Cinemas Grossmont Center 10 with time to spare, only to be told that it was conversion day and the 4:45 pm showing had been cancelled. The digital projector in the #7 auditorium was still being tweaked. With no other options to choose from, Elijah and I picked up our long faces and headed towards the exit.
One door opens, another closes. What were the chances we'd run into Jennifer Deering, manager emeritus of Reading Cinemas Town Square, while on our way out? Ms. Deering, as her adoring staff calls her, was at Grossmont to help ensure a smooth transition.
Ms. Deering is more than just a manager. She is THE manager in this town! Ms. D not only puts on a great show, she spends a good deal of her off hours watching movies and knows firsthand what it feels like to be unexpectedly turned away.
Looking at her watch, Ms. Deering asked that we give her 15 minutes to see if she couldn't speed things up. Seizing the opportunity, I whisked Elijah into auditorium 10 to watch a few minutes of the last film the theatre will ever project in 35mm.
"Why do we want to see five minutes of Lincoln?" the lad asked.
"Exactly," I replied. "Another second of it could conceivably kill you."
How could I have possibly explained to the kid that the reason I wanted to watch it was to lay claim to having seen the last 35mm and first digital images projected in the complex?
It wasn't the first time a Spielberg film marked a passing in my life. And I don't mean when I passed lunch halfway through Hook. Oskar Schindler and the Temple of Doom was the last film I watched in my beloved Edens Theatre. Imagine the Cinema 21 located in a Chicago suburb and you'll begin to understand the wave of loss I felt when the Edens hit the wrecking ball.
The elevator door opened and out came Ms. Deering with news that we would be the test audience for the first digital screening in #7.
Elijah was dumbstruck. "A private screening," he yelped. "Really?"
Don't you know who I am, kid? I'M CHARLES FOSTER MARKS!
He bounced around auditorium 7 like a tennis ball in a blender, occupying at least 10 different seats throughout the course of the show. For the rest of the day I was King Poo-Poo.
In addition to witnessing history in the making, the afternoon was not without a darker moment. Not wanting to worry the Lickonas, I stayed inside the holy confines and placed a call in the middle of the movie to let them know that Elijah would be late for supper. Forgive me Marty, for I have sinned.
For what it's worth, the #7 Grossmont was one of the banes of my cinematic existence. There is a center-aisle on the main floor where my seat should be! An out of focus, faulty-shutter plagued screening of The Box temporarily stamped a skull and crossbones on the screen.
The center aisle remains, but the new digital image was crisp and not so bright where you could count the pixels.
The days of perks for a film critic have gone the way of the 8-track player. I am forever grateful for the cup of fresh coffee Branden Parish brews on the rare occasion of a morning screening at Hillcrest. Thanks for royal treatment (and eternal memory), Ms. Jennifer.