seen @ Angelika Film Center, New York NY
The Angelika Film Center can be an exciting place to see a movie, but the thing is, you gotta plan in advance when you go there - especially if it's on a weekend, and especially especially if a hot movie or two is playing. I bought my ticket for Another Year an hour and a half ahead of time and then I wandered around the East Village for a bit. I bought some pizza, because I knew I wasn't gonna buy food there (and not just because it's expensive, as you'll see). The lobby, which includes the cafe, was sparsely populated when I left. It was well into the afternoon, though not late in the day.
When I came back, it was about twenty minutes before my showtime, and the lobby was PACKED. The Angelika's not very big, as movie theaters go. With the cafe to the side as you enter, it's about the size of your average Starbucks. Now imagine that same space with all the tables full, and a huge line snaking around the perimeter, from the rear entrance leading to the lower level, where the ticket takers stand, to the front entrance and around the side to the cafe counter and back towards the bathrooms - a mass of people standing around, waiting to go downstairs to the auditoriums. Granted, you see long lines on opening weekends at multiplexes all the time, but your local multiplex usually has a lot more room to accommodate so many people. When they're in a smaller space, like the Angelika, the feeling is a bit more tense and... chaotic.
I had no idea where the line ended, nor did I know which movie the line was for. Eventually the usher announced over the PA system that the line was for Blue Valentine, which was screening at the same time as Another Year, and that the line for the latter was forming to the side. I found that line and followed it... out the front door and down the front steps into the street. Well, it wasn't snowing, nor was it raining beyond an occasional drop or two, and it was relatively warmer than it had been recently, so waiting outside wasn't so bad. Now you see why getting food at the theater would've been a bad idea - if I had been with someone, I could've sent them inside to get something for both of us while I held our spot in line, but I wasn't, so I couldn't.
I've written before about how I've seen the occasional celebrity at the Angelika, attending as just another filmgoer. I had no such luck yesterday, though it wouldn't have been too surprising if I had. Blue Valentine was clearly the movie most people were talking about, including the couple in front of me. They had already seen it and were describing it to this elderly lady whom they must have met in line.
I'm normally not the type who gets off on being in a crowd, but when it comes to movies, there is a kind of thrill to the aspect of waiting on line for an eagerly-anticipated movie. To give an example for a less sublime film, I remember going to see Attack of the Clones with John at the Ziegfield in midtown Manhattan, an opulent, gorgeous movie house, and the line for that weaved around two corners of the block. While I've never been that big of a Star Wars fan, I could feel the excitement as much as anyone else, and the simple fact of being part of such a huge line seemed to confirm the importance of such an event as this. (Too bad the film itself didn't live up to the anticipation...) There was a similar feeling at the Angelika yesterday, for Blue Valentine. You could feel the excitement for it building in the air (although there was some buzz for Another Year as well). It goes without saying, perhaps, that both shows were sellouts.
I had to sit towards the front again. If you ever go to the Angelika, always get a seat next to the wall. The auditoriums are small enough that you'll still have a perfect view, and the rows are small enough that you won't have to make your way past two dozen people just so you can go to the bathroom. If you get a seat next to a lamp, you can read your book while you're waiting. I lucked out in that Another Year was playing in the room where you can't feel the rumble of the subway beneath your feet (some people don't like that).
The movie itself was good. Some people are calling this Mike Leigh's best; I wouldn't go that far. All the talk is around Lesley Manville's performance, but Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen were what really did it for me. They made such a warm and loving couple; you wanted to be around them and to follow their lives.
So does anyone have any stories about being on line for a movie? I had briefly considered trying to make an ongoing feature of some sort based on this, but I'm not sure how I would do it. I probably won't, but it's a nice idea to kick around.