Darkness, camera, action

In those darkened moments of my youth, when the plush curtains parted at the downtown Fox Theater, it was an art-deco entertainment experience. It was Ben Hur and Cleopatra. It was CinemaScope!

Soon we didn’t have to venture to downtown Phoenix; a brand-new movie theater popped up in the suburbs with springs in the seats and ice-cold air conditioning. Sure, James Bond was equally as suave onscreen, but movie-going just wasn’t the event it used to be. The era of the multiplex was upon us.

But when I was in college, it evolved again into the art houses that showed French cinema with a noticeable lack of action but plenty of intellectual meaning and interesting characters.

The art houses have survived (mostly because of the dreadful mainstream choices at the multiplexes), but the two theaters showing independent films here in Sacramento are in jeopardy. It seems Century Theatres, the kings of multiplexes, are hoping to capture the independent-art market, with one-stop shopping for all things film downtown. (See “Closing credits.”) Though it may be true that cities can support multiple art houses, many of those large metropolitan areas have a strong student and intellectual base, something in relatively short supply in Sacramento.

If Century wants to play on the level field of the free-enterprise system and jump into the art-house market, well, there’s nothing to say but “good luck.” However, if the city feels the need to tilt the field in favor of Century, by giving it millions of dollars in the name of redevelopment, well, that action needs to be examined. And a number of Sacramento residents concerned about the future of the art house that’s not subsidized by city government, Tower Theatre, are talking about taking action. There is plenty of intellectual meaning and interesting characters in this story.