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May 04, 2006

AMC means Always Messed-Up Cinema


The press release concerning American Multi-Cinema, also known as AMC, adding art and independent films to their theaters, is wrong. AMC has previously tried to showcase art and indie films in the past. My own experience with AMC is that given the opportunity, they'll bungle the job. This is based on my personal experience.

In the mid Eighties, AMC opened a theater in the Tivoli shopping mall near Downtown Denver. They had what they called the "Bijou" theaters as part of their twelve screens. As best as I could tell, "Bijou" refered to whichever theater was designated for the particular film. I have to admit that I saw some great movies: Bellochio's Henry IV, Rohmer's Summer, and Huston's Moulin Rouge come to mind. Not a lot of people saw the art or independent films there. My take is that seeing films at the Landmark theaters had become an ingrained habit for Denverites. Eventually, AMC discontinued the "Bijou" designation and left the art and indie film exhibition to Landmark. I read somewhere that according to AMC management, customers were confused by the "Bijou" designation and were baffled enough to buy tickets, but think the films were shown at another theater. In the convening years, the Tivoli went dark and is now run in conjunction with The Denver Film Society.

About ten years later, in late 1998, AMC tried again. With big fanfare, AMC reopened one of their multiplexes well south of central Denver and called it an "Artplex". Once the press releases stopped and the theater actually opened, AMC dropped the ball. Whomever was hired to be the projectionist either had a pathological hatred for films with subtitles, or was inept at his job. I had to walk out on Wild Reeds because the subtitles were shown below the screen. I was told that the correct lens was not available for the projector. Un Air de Famille, wide screen film, was projected in the wrong aspect ratio. Every time I saw a foreign language film, I had to get someone to fix the projection of the film, to make the subtitles visable, or simply get the film in focus. English language films usually had no problems. Although it was great to see Lady from Shanghai on a sort of big screen, the film began about five minutes before its scheduled start. Not too many people showed up, possibly due to the Landmark habit, the technical problems that always happened with foreign films, and the fact that there was no advertising. AMC hoped that simply reading the list of films at the theater would be enough, as if without advertising people would show up to see Lan Yu. I was often an audience of one. I did show up to the Three Stooges retrospective and can say with certainty that the bigger the Stooges are, the funnier they are. I discussed the situation with someone at AMC's headquarters who claimed surprise when I listed how many films I saw and how frequently things went wrong. I was disappointed that a couple of promised films never showed up, but was not surprised when AMC gave up on their "Artplex" experiment at the end of 1998.

Now AMC is going to try again, ignoring their own history. That the new press release has been published with no one mentioning what AMC did previously indicates that I'm the only film blogger who has lived where AMC has theaters, or my memory is better than others. Will see how this new experiment works out. I'm giving AMC no more than six months before they go back to showing the same stuff as before in their glorified warehouses with movie screens.

Posted by peter at May 4, 2006 08:24 AM


I remember about 8 years ago when AMC announced with fanfare a series of classic films on the big screen. We went to see THE QUIET MAN and soon discovered that it was some crappy video projection, not the actual 35mm films. We walked out and got our money back. So I'm with you on AMC.

Posted by: tlrhb at May 4, 2006 10:16 PM

The program is rather laughable; the content thus far consists of Akeelah & The Bee and Friends With Money, the latter of which has been playing at AMC Theaters ever since it went into wide release a few weeks ago. Perhaps the company will expand their horizons to riskier titles, but I doubt it; more likely, they're just going to give the air of prestige to films they would have programmed anyway.

Posted by: David Lowery at May 6, 2006 01:42 AM