Sunday, October 28, 2007

Shut Out At The Movies

Residents of Center City Philadelphia are blessed to have the Ritz Theaters, three movie houses showing non-mainstream, arty, foreign and documentary films. Between the three, that's 12 screens, which given the relatively small size of Center City, is pretty amazing. Sure New York and Los Angeles get some adventurous movies that don't play here, but at the Ritz, you rarely have to show up more than 15 minutes ahead of showtime to get a good seat. I can honestly say that when I think of the things that have kept me in Philly my entire adult life, the Ritz is pretty high up on my list. I like movies that don't play the local multiplex, I like seeing movies on the big screen (I don't even have a Netflix account), and I like not having to rearrange my life to see as many movies as I do (an average of about two per week).

Ramon L. Posel, who started the Ritz in 1976, died in 2005. Not surprisingly, the Ritz was bought last March by Landmark Theatres, this country's biggest theater chain devoted to indie movies. I was a little worried, but not much has changed. The same people take my ticket when I go in or pour my soda at the concession stand. They play the same kinds of movies the Ritz has always played. What has changed, however, is that I now realize that I took for granted how smoothly the Ritz was run, especially given that it was a tiny, independently owned company. But now that Landmark has taken over, nothing is simple anymore. Movies start late. The sound is often dreadfully low. The Web site lists upcoming movies that never open and doesn't list movies that do open. The air conditioning at the Ritz Bourse hasn't worked in weeks, and the theaters are hot as hell. They even started selling crap candy and DVDs and books, and they have some promotion involving blue seats that I still don't understand. But whatever, no biggie.

Until today.

We went to see the 5:10 Reservation Road, bought tickets ... and then were told the 5:10 Reservation Road was CANCELED. Huh? I have been going to movies for 30 years, and never once has a movie been canceled. I didn't even realize movies were something that could be canceled. For me, that's like telling a kid the morning of December 25 that Christmas was canceled.

Since we've seen all the films playing on the other 11 screens (save O Jerusalem, which is getting some pretty, pretty, pretty bad reviews), we couldn't even go see another movie. I missed the end of the Eagles game (they won) for nothing.

This wouldn't have happened on Ramon L. Posel's watch, believe me.

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