Sunday, June 22, 2014

Ask Me a Question: Back to the Future

About this time last year I was walking around downtown Los Angeles with two of my closest bros as we waited for our suits to be tailored for one of their weddings.  We walked to a nearby arcade I'd read about and passed two old school theaters being renovated, The United Artists and The Rialto.  I hadn't spent much time downtown but knew it was on the up and up with L.A. Live near the Staples Center bustling and pockets of nightlife helping to bring people out.  I didn't even realize one of the buildings I marveled at was used in the shooting of Predator 2!  Cut to Saturday night and the United Artists Theatre was hosting it's first public film screening since 1990!  The accompanying building has been rebuilt as the boutique Ace Hotel and looks to use The Theatre for premieres, concerts and live events.  The interior was absolutely gorgeous with intricate design work that was to evoke a cathedral but for films as instructed by UA founders Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford.  With a balcony and 1,600 seats, the place feels grand but not hollow. 

Saturday's screening of Back to the Future was part of the Los Angeles Conservancy's Last Remaining Seats series, a 28 year strong program of classic films screened in historic venues.  The LA Conservancy is a local non-profit that recognizes and preserves historic architectural and cultural landmarks and communities through walking tours, programs and events.  Now with 6,000 members, it's the largest local preservation group in America.  While most of the other films in the series skew to the 30's and 40's, 1985's Back to the Future would be a rare title that would help draw in a younger audience.  After some introductions from members of the Los Angeles Conservancy and Ace Hotel, film critic and author extraordinaire Leonard Maltin warmed us up stating that he usually doesn't get to introduce films he saw during their first run as BTTF is 29 years young.  He then listed the top grossing films of 1985 which included:  Police Academy 2, The Goonies, Rocky IV, Rambo: First Blood, Part II and of course the years biggest hit, Back to the Future.

The enthusiastic crowd welcomed future Mayor of Hill Valley Goldie Wilson, Donald Fullilove, Marty's girlfriend Jennifer played by Claudia Wells and Lorraine Baines herself, Lea Thompson.  Christopher Lloyed was scheduled to attend but canceled last minute, pretty sure he was at some comic convention making some cash.  Fullilove and Wells were both wearing shirts promoting the film and all three participants looked great and were in good spirits.  Surprisingly, much of the brief session was devoted to original Marty McFly Eric Stoltz being replaced by Michael J. Fox 5 weeks into production and how the actors had to re-shoot most of their scenes.  Thompson welcomed the chance to do it again as she thought her first attempt was weak.  Fullilove mentioned how his initial audition with director Bob Zemeckis was just being asked some strange, philosophical questions then on set, was just told to "go ahead".  Wells had auditioned for The Goonies, Gremlins and Young Sherlock Holmes for Amblin Entertainment but failed to land a part.  The 4th time was the charm meeting the same producers and casting directors.  Wells remembers not knowing how to act on a movie set coming from television where 10 pages a day is normal but on a film, it was only 1 to 1.5 pages a day.  Thompson recalls Zemeckis being so happy to be there and adding little easter eggs that audiences could discover upon subsequent viewings.  Fullilove can't believe they're still talking about the film nearly 30 years later but loves the energy and passion of fans then took a selfie of himself with the audience in the background.

This was the 7th or 8th time I've seen Back to the Future on the big screen in the last maybe 4 years.  If you need a synopsis then you're really reading the wrong online diary. It's still a fun romp with a great soundtrack and performances from all involved.  Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Crispin Glover, Lea Thompson, Thomas Wilson etc all shine with ultimate 80's supporting player James Tolkan showing up as the hard ass school teacher and young Billy Zane as a silent friend.  This time around I really noticed how much the Clock Tower and town square were used in the 1985 and 1955 scenes without ever feeling repetitive or small.  It was a fun and educational night but phew did it get warm in there and those seats had me all scrunched up.

In 2012 the building was sold and the Theatre began it's renovation:

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