The next picture show

New theaters bring art-house films to the masses

Back in not-so-distant memory, local movie buffs sometimes had to pray that art-house and independent films would open here. Even festival favorites or critical darlings could skip our fair Southern mecca, often due to a shortage of available screens for non-mainstream fodder.

But as smaller-release films have gained footholds in America’s megaplexes, Atlanta’s appetite for all things indie has increased accordingly. This year our market has seen the entry of two major theater chains that champion underdog filmmakers.

In April, Madstone Theaters reopened the former General Cinema theater at the Parkside Shopping Center as an upscale movie-going experience, with a slant toward adults seeking respite from the mallrats. The 4-year-old chain, with theaters in 10 cities, also incorporates a production division and an affiliated distribution company, New Yorker Films.

This month Landmark Theatres celebrates the opening of its newly refurbished Midtown Art Cinema, a marked improvement over the embarrassingly crusty Regal Midtown Promenade. The new addition is the 54th property for the 30-year-old company, which has theaters in 18 markets nationwide.

Both new arrivals have done the city a service by renovating formerly dumpy cinemas into more upscale venues. Here’s a shakedown of how the two theaters compare.

? ? ?Image ?Image ??
?On ?the
Eight ?screens of all art-house, foreign and indie, all the time. ?Eight ?screens with mostly art-house, foreign and indie, but a few major-release ?and classic films mixed in.??
?Let’s ?all go to the lobby?The ?eyesore
?concession stand has been knocked out for a more
?inviting space with cool foreign language film posters.?
The ?posh entry space was designed for pre- or post-film hobnobbing, with checkers ?and chess games on tables and space that can be rented for parties. Also ?includes a concierge desk, manned on weekends.??
?Creature ?comforts?Rearranged ?seats mean no more pesky center aisles; new projector lenses make for cleaner ?pictures; Dolby Surround sound equipment replaces old mono systems. ?Reduced ?the number of seats in each theater to create wider “walk-through” ?aisles
?with more leg
?room. Quippy film quotes on
?bathroom mirrors.??
?Eats?Standard ?multiplex fare, plus baked goods, gourmet candies and specialty coffee drinks.?Our ?favorite: Beer and wine bar! Plus: homemade sandwiches, baked goods, specialty ?coffee drinks, smoothies and gourmet popcorn seasonings. Swanky.??
?Before ?the show?Hooray ?for no commercials other than trailers. Landmark doesn’t allow them.?A ?“personal trailer” — as in an actual person — gives ?a short curtain speech and talks up other Madstone movies.??
?Member ?perks?Members ?get copies of FLM magazine and free CDs featuring songs and trailers from ?new movies. Membership is free. ?Members ?get reduced tickets, invitations to advance screenings, free subscription ?to FilmMaker magazine, discounted admission to special events, express ticketing ?on weekends and other benefits. $45 for adults, $30 for students and
?Drawback??The ?Midtown location seems perilously close to old standards like LeFont Plaza ?and Tara Cinemas, bound to create a heated axis of competition. Some intowners ?will probably grumble about having to drive to Phipps for the nearest mainstream ?moviehouse. ?Hidden ?on the backside of an ugly Sandy Springs strip mall, Madstone Parkside seems ?like an unlikely setting for sophisticated film fare, but early numbers ?show that locals have embraced the concept. The Premiere Pic series with ?films not showing elsewhere locally, may help lure an intown following.??
?Coming ?attractions?Hosts ?Out On Film, Atlanta’s gay and lesbian film festival, Nov. 12-16.?Co-hosts ?the Latin American Film Festival, through Nov. 14.??
?Going ?
Landmark ?Theatres Midtown Art Cinema
?931 Monroe Drive
?Midtown Promenade
Madstone ?Theaters Parkside
?5920 Roswell Road
?Parkside Shopping Center