When Phantom Menace was released, I took the day off work and drove up to the AMC 1000 Van Ness in San Francisco. If you ask me, it’s got the best screens in the city, although maybe the new AMC multiplex in Daly City beats it these days. But that multiplex was built over hospital parking, and is thus morally flawed, so I vote for the 1000 Van Ness. Besides, the Daly City multiplex wasn’t done when Phantom Menace came out.
As far as San Francisco movie theaters in general? Yes, of course the Castro is better. But they don’t show blockbusters. The Coronet was awesome… for sentimental reasons: yeah, it was the canonical destination for blockbuster openers. However, the 1000 Van Ness had better screens. My favorite rep house in San Francisco is probably the Roxie, while I’m digressing. But man — the Four Star, the Bridge, Red Vic, even the Embarcadero didn’t suck. I saw a lot of Cronenberg movies at the Embarcadero. I do miss San Francisco’s movie options, as much as I love the Brattle.
Where was I? Oh yeah; Star Wars.
So I drove up and got to the theater by noon, with tickets in hand for a 7:30 show. Surprisingly, the theater was not packed. I’d anticipated camping out in line with my pal Jamie — no such need. In fact, there were still tickets available for the 1:30 show. Jamie and I looked at each other.
“Hey. We could see the 1:30, and then we could see the 7:30! We could see it twice in one day! It’s gonna be awesome! This is great! We are so lucky!”
In retrospect? Yeah, the lack of people lining up should have been a sign. I don’t really recall what I was thinking. I might have said something about how everyone was over at the aforementioned Coronet. The local newspapers had been doing stories on the line over there, which was huge. So, sure, that’s why nobody was around at the 1000 Van Ness for the most important movie event ever. (We didn’t know about that thing with the hobbits yet.)
So we went to see the 1:30 movie. So exciting! The Lucasfilm logo at the beginning! The incredibly cool first ten minutes or so!
And then it was as if we’d eaten the top layer of our popcorn and found stale Milk Duds underneath. The hell?
Afterwards we kind of slouched out into the lobby and looked at our 7:30 tickets. And looked at the tickets we were holding for the other five or six people who were seeing the 7:30 showing with us. And sat down on the floor, and talked about — I don’t remember. Gaming, probably. When everyone else showed up, we didn’t trash the movie — figured it was better to let people make up their own minds, plus hey, maybe it’d get better with a second showing. Which it didn’t really.
So that’s why I saw Phantom Menace twice on opening day despite hating it both times. It turned me off blockbuster openings for a while. The thing with the hobbit did a lot to fix that, as did both Spider-Man movies. (The first of which I saw at the Metreon, since I’m keeping track.)
Despite all that, despite the tale of woe, despite the painful contrast of Natalie Portman in the Star Wars movies and Natalie Portman in Closer… I’m still sitting here with four tickets to the midnight showing of Revenge of the Sith at Boston Common. (First come first served but one’s earmarked for my brother unless he doesn’t want it and one’s earmarked for the guy who got me a Serenity ticket ditto.)
Eternal optimist am I. Sigh. You know what was really good? Sean Stewart’s Star Wars novel. It had a lot of Count Dooku in it, y’know?