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Flicks - Mad for movies

It's a mixed blessing whenever a popular art house film plays Atlanta. A critical and commercial success like Y Tu Mama Tambien may itself be cause for celebration, but in a city with just a handful of screens for independent or foreign films, a hit art-house flick invariably displaces other worthy films, which might never be shown to Atlanta audiences.

Fortunately, Atlanta's indie film screens will increase by eight when Madstone Theaters Parkside opens in Sandy Springs April 25. The New York-based chain specializes in independent, foreign and art-house films, although it has a fairly flexible definition of what constitutes "indie" fare. The nation's nine other Madstone theaters are currently screening the classy but highly commercial Oscar-winner Chicago and Miramax's decidedly lowbrow Gwyneth Paltrow stewardess comedy View From the Top.

At a March 28 press conference, Madstone founder and co-CEO Chip Seelig explained how the chain planned to allocate Parkside's eight screens: two will be reserved for studio-financed indie-type films like The Hours. Two will be for what he calls "Big Art" films like Talk to Her or Frida.

Another pair will be devoted to lower-profile indie movies that may have played at film festivals like Sundance, but haven't gotten major distribution. Seelig cites as an example The Stone Reader, a documentary about the rediscovery of a lost literary genius, that will be showing when the theater officially opens April 25. Seelig hopes to provide local film programs with permanent homes on the final two screens, although no arrangements have been finalized. The theater's programming decisions will be made in Madstone's New York and Los Angeles offices.

The Madstone intends to stand apart from Hollywood-dominated megaplexes with its chic, cafe-like environment as well as its choice of films. Like other theaters in the chain, Madstone Parkside will serve beer and wine, have monthly wine tastings, and such idiosyncratic touches as the "personal trailer," an individual who'll make live announcements before each film, like a playhouse's curtain speech.

Madstone will offer a preview weekend April 18-20, featuring such hit indie films as Pulp Fiction, Amelie, Gosford Park, Y Tu Mama Tambien and Citizen Kane, as well as movies with Atlanta connections: Gone With the Wind, Spike Lee's School Daze and Julia Roberts' Steel Magnolias. Tickets are free, available through the theater's website: www.madstonetheaters.com. Madstone Parkside promises to be a unique Atlanta venue — as long as audiences can find it in its easily overlooked locale at 5920 Roswell Road in the back of Parkside Shopping Center in Sandy Springs.??