Monday, May 20, 2013

The Rep for Film Stalwarts.

The Rep


Written and Directed by Morgan White

Rating: 4/5
Opens in Toronto at the Revue Cinema on May 22 & 23, then a week at the Projection Booth on May 24, Ottawa’s Mayfair Theatre May 29 & 30, Winnipeg’s Cinematheque April 26-28, and RPL Film Theatre in Regina June 6-9.

The Rep is a brave, sad and moving documentary on the dying gasps of the beloved dinosaur – the repertory cinema.  Featuring interviews with rep theatre owners, filmmakers Kevin Smith, John Waters, Atom Egoyan, George A. Romero, and Bruce McDonald, and fans, film critics and projectionists, it is clear the rep experience is fading into the past.   But why?   It’s a terrific way of seeing the old movies.   Or is it?

Repertory cinema has been popular for decades.  Tiny ma and pa run theatres serve communities by bringing rare, classic and other non – mainstream fare to the big screen.  Experiencing film in a community of strangers in the dark is fun and festive; those theatres are usually comfy and communal and loaded with movie memorabilia and passion. 

Years ago it was hard to find films.  You had a week or so to catch one in a theatre and you might never see it again except on TV years later.  A movie you loved you might expect to see once in your lifetime.  The home entertainment industry and the internet made movie cherry picking ridiculously easy.  You could be your own film festival producer and access films all day, anywhere.

Some brave souls still run successful rep theatres, but interviews with owners in Toronto, Los Angeles, somewhere in Idaho, Portland, New York and recognise that it’s is nearly extinct but express hope for the future against all evidence to the contrary.  People are lazy.  They prefer to sit home and watch any film they want on the internet.  They don’t want to dress and park and go out.
The Rep focuses on the sad story of the Toronto Underground Cinema. Three wide eyed film fans, Nigel Agnew, Charlie Lawton and Alex Woodside, are besotted with films of the 80’s.  They love them so much they took over a theatre space in the heart of downtown Toronto.  Film fan and critic Andrew Parker helped out.

As suggested in The Rep, film obsessives believe the world is in tune with their tastes.  But it seems a stretch to expect people to pay money to see an 80’s horror B movie. 

The men had no business experience, little instinct for the job but passion drove them forward through poverty and disappointment.  Their naïveté and the public’s changing habits worked against them from the beginning.     

The Underground threw a free screening and 400 attendees said they’d be back for paid seats.  But there was no reason to believe they would be.  It was more like twenty people to four people.  Adam West made an appearance, and fans came, but how often can an Adam West show up?

Apparently other forces were at work which may have trumped all these reasons behind the Underground’s closure.  The landlord was involved in legal and financial imbroglios running into the millions. They lost the space.

Even so.

The public taste has irrevocably shifted for all time.  Kids who grew up computing don’t have much interest in olde tyme theatres.  Movie fans enjoyed rep theatres for years but these days they live in the burbs, or are too busy and can see what they want on TV – you know, like The Voice? 




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