Kimberly Blough 6:28 p.m., March 9
Digital Gym open for business
MACSD's screening venue passes white glove test
The Media Arts Center's new screening room has been open to the public for over a week. Today marked my maiden visit.
Located on the main floor of the MACSD, 2921 El Cajon Blvd, the intimate, 48-seat projection facility brought back memories of youth and many an evening spent attending film society screenings.
Don't expect much in the way of competition with local multiplexes. Unless they're narrating a documentary, you're not likely to find the films of Brad Pitt or Ben Affleck at the Digital Gym. This is a new venue for art, foreign, and independent features that would, outside of home theatres, not be shown in San Diego.
The 18 foot screen doesn't have moveable side-to-side masking (the top of the screen drops down to accommodate 'Scope), but the image is crisp and the sight-lines -- the positioning of the seats falls somewhere between raked and stadium -- clean, real clean. Like my conscience. The red seats, orphans of the late UltraStar Flower Hill, are surprisingly comfortable and there is legroom to spare.
Prior to this morning's screening, I noticed a group of particularly vocal children attending one of the Gym's classes. Fox 5's Josh Board take note: the room is well padded and not so much as one shriek bled through.
There are a few minor, and easily correctable drawbacks: the entrance is positioned next to the screen. Opening the door during a daytime showing could conceivably bring about temporary blindness to those already seated in the dark space. Until they figure out a way to hang a curtain to block the direct sunlight, patrons are asked to arrive on time and visit the restroom before, not during, the picture.
The screen was masked perfectly and the few projection problems so slight that only an anal-retentive twit such as myself would obsess over them. After the show, MACSD gancer macher Lisa Franek gave me a private demo. Next time, remind me to bring my Rock-A-Bye Baby or The Geisha Boy Blu-ray to do a test run. Keep your bars and tones; five minutes of Tashlin and Lewis (and a surprise visit from my cousin, VistaVision Q. Marks) and I'll have it sized and looking sharper and brighter than the pleats in Mr. Wooly's sharkskin slacks.
One problem that's no so easily correctable: street parking is going to be a bitch on weekends.
What the space needs to make it a top drawer temple in which to worship movies is a DCP projector. The Media Arts Center and their extraordinary Latino Film Festival have done so much to enrich the lives of local film aficionados. There are pockets of deep pockets scattered throughout San Diego County. Surely some film-loving soul could part with the $100,000 needed to re-outfit the booth. I'd settle for ten benevolent souls with ten-grand apiece. Kick in a little more and let's talk about naming rights. How about the Bob Baker Odeon, where it's so nice to watch nice movies? Don't forget, "Visit the King Stahlman Cinema on your way in or out of jail!" I can see it now: "The Helen Woodward Cinema Center: Home of fixed focus and pets!"
Seriously, is there someone out there who loves movies enough to pony up the dough needed to help give the Digital Gym a boost to go head-to-head, at least as far as technology is concerned, with the big boys? This is a worthwhile organization that's proven its commitment to education and the art of cinema time and again. It's not as though this town couldn't stand an alternative film venue. Can those of you more fortunate help out your brothers and sisters in celluloid?
General admission is $10.50. There are matinees daily with early bird and late shows on the weekends. Don't forget to up their per-capita by paying a visit to the Digital Gym's stocked concessions stand!
Now playing: local indie filmmaker Destin Cretton's I Am Not a Hipster and the campy trannies-behind-bars epic, K 11. Starting Friday: Paris-Manhattan, a must for Woody Allen completests.
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