MCN Blogs
Ray Pride

By Ray Pride Pride@moviecitynews.com

Dimming the lights: Chicago's Esquire Theatre

244058266_9116b42f94.jpgMemories of some movies are inseparable from where you first see them. My prime Chicago example: Oak Street’s 70-year-old deco dowager, the Esquire. In 1982, I saw Blade Runner there five, six times. That creepy, crapped-out metropolis is stuck in the same zone of memory as the bold, stories-high vertical neon marquee outside, Vangelis playing across huge curtains, forty feet high. Subdivided and sold several times since then, the Esquire closed last Thursday: as the developer who’s bringing the wrecking ball phrased it to the Sun-Times, the up-up-upscale environs of Prada-era Oak Street are missing “a restaurant component.” Loews and most recent lessor AMC, for whatever corporate interests, let the joint, like many before, run to ruin. Posters on the walls included E.T. (also 1982), and JFK and Bugsy (both 1991). Advertisements are the modern decor, and I get a coupon for $5 off at Old Navy, expiring the next day. Cup and napkin cartons are stacked in the foyer. A print of a Fox picture in two cans awaits an empty dolly at the other end of the lobby.

The metal doors clap loudly against each other with each entrance. At The Devil Wears Prada, a clutch of thirteen watches Stanley Tucci’s character talk about the proud tradition of fashion as art, forehead foreshortened by the projectionist. The overhead fans are off. Two abandoned poster cases flank World Trade Center, where, inside, 14 viewers are trapped underground with Nicolas Cage. I expected the dank smell of dirty carpet, but the third floor reeks of cherry Twizzlers. But the ivy-patterned carpet holds deep crimson and black stains, like shadows in shallows beneath the surface of a stream.

This final show is at 7:40: Scoop. A tiny woman as old as the theater sits in the back row, platinum hair high, an immense tub of fluids in lap. A trailer for Hollywoodland plays. “If it stops one person from a buying a ticket, I have to stop it,” a character menaces. The animated AMC filmstrip leaps about and the stereo’s off-whack, but Woody Allen’s a monaural man. Allen’s familiar white typeface against black pulsates, the dim, picture flickers. Twenty-four people watch without audible complaint.

There are intermittent open holes along the balustrade where footlamps once beamed. This place was thrilling once. In one abandoned marble-counter ticket booth, paint peels, the board that covers the gape of a missing machine is smashed. Back on Oak Street, the night smells of rain and the lake. Beneath the marquee, there are missing burned-out or missing small white bulbs. Across the street, a woman works angles with a flash disposable. A chubby man behind a tripod focuses on the orange, yellow and white light of the marquee that will be doused for good, seconds from now. [Photo: Ray Pride.]

Comments are closed.

Movie City Indie

Quote Unquotesee all »

“Ten years ago at Telluride, I said on a panel that theatrical distribution was dying. It seemed obvious to me. I was surprised how many in the audience violently objected: ‘People will always want to go to the movies!’ That’s true, but it’s also true that theatrical cinema as we once knew it has died. Theatrical cinema is now Event Cinema, just as theatrical plays and musical performances are Events. No one just goes to a movie. It’s a planned occasion. Four types of Event Cinema remain.
1. Spectacle (IMAX-style blockbusters)
2. Family (cartoon like features)
3. Horror (teen-driven), and
4. Film Club (formerly arthouse but now anything serious).

There are isolated pockets like black cinema, romcom, girl’s-night-out, seniors, teen gross-outs, but it’s primarily those four. Everything else is TV. Now I have to go back to episode five of ‘Looming Tower.'”
~ Paul Schrader

“Because of my relative candor on Twitter regarding why I quit my day job, my DMs have overflowed with similar stories from colleagues around the globe. These peeks behind the curtains of film festivals, venues, distributors and funding bodies weren’t pretty. Certain dismal patterns recurred (and resonated): Boards who don’t engage with or even understand their organization’s artistic mission and are insensitive to the diverse neighborhood in which their organization’s venue is located; incompetent founders and/or presidents who create only obstacles, never solutions; unduly empowered, Trumpian bean counters who chip away at the taste and experiences that make organizations’ cultural offerings special; expensive PR teams that don’t bring to the table a bare-minimum familiarity with the rich subcultural art form they’re half-heartedly peddling as “product”; nonprofit arts organizations for whom art now ranks as a distant-second goal behind profit.”
~ Eric Allen Hatch