Monday, July 4, 2016

Goodbye, Uptown Theatre

Goodbye, Uptown Theatre
(Joseph Larsen, 2012)

The first screening I ever attended at the Uptown Theatre was a midnight show of Omega Man on August 12, 2004. I began working there nine days later.

The pre-renovated Uptown was my favorite place in the world. The feel, the atmosphere, the personality - all simply unmatched. The above video was shot during the final week before its 2012 closure, with the auditorium camera shot placed right next to my favorite chair (ground-level, left side, furthest-back aisle seat). The music is "Liu Lien" by Yao Lee, from Tsai Ming Liang's Goodbye, Dragon Inn, a film that best expresses my thoughts of the old Uptown.

It was the theater's renovation and subsequent loss of film projection that motivated me to pursue a career in film & video archiving. During my tenth anniversary of employment, I created this blog as a side project to document the rich history of the building. So much was scattered around the Twin Cities in a number of archives, not to mention unorganized boxes and file cabinets in the Uptown itself. On the eve of my departure, however, it was all put together for a 100-year anniversary. I can't think of a better sendoff than this history being brought back to the Uptown and its moviegoing community.

And now, for the heck of it, my five favorite screenings during my twelve years at the Uptown:

Aliens (08.29.09)
A routine midnight screening made special by the legendary Rock & Roll Ray. The pre-show revealed that he had an actual alien to show the crowd but had unfortunately escaped, and then, about 30 minutes into the film during its first major action sequence, Ray emerged dressed as an alien and battled his cohorts on stage. It was something straight out of a William Castle experience, and it was glorious.

Che (01.16.09)
This special cinematic experience put together both parts of Steven Soderbergh's epic into a combined roadshow release. There were no ads, trailers, or credits, just a five-minute musical overture over a map of Cuba before the film and a souvenir program listing cast and crew information for each audience member. A rare moment where attending a film felt like a true event.

Fantasia (08.12.11)
Screenings of Disney repertory films are quite rare, as steep prices and strict regulations tend to keep bookers at bay. I took it upon myself, however, to convince Landmark higher-ups that Fantasia would indeed make its money back, which it accomplished with the added help of weekend matinee shows. Few films look more spectacular on the big screen.

Spooktacular! (01.28.06)
My favorite midnight selection. While its centerpiece was the public domain classic Night of the Living DeadSpooktacular! was preceded by over a half hour of old horror movie trailers and animated shorts. Wildly entertaining and everything that a good midnight movie experience should provide.

Zatoichi 5 (08.28.04)
While Omega Man was my first film at the Uptown, it was my third - Zatoichi 5 - that first made it sink in that I was now surrounded in a movie screening paradise. Who would think to play the 5th Zatoichi film? I never found out if it was the only title available or was chosen at random, but sitting in the darkness with a scant few others, I knew that this place was somewhere special.

I wish those who never experienced the Uptown before its 2012 renovation could've seen it, and I hope those who did hold on to its memory. It sure was a beauty.

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