For anyone who bemoans "there is nothing to do in Los Angeles," this past weekend proved them wrong once again. There was the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, the City of Lights City of Angels Film Festival, and several other film series, all with a price range of free to ten dollars. Then there was the first-ever Turner Classic Movies Film Festival in Hollywood, with over forty films including Sunset Boulevard, A Star is Born, The Good the Bad and the Ugly and the premiere of the newly restored Metropolis.
When local friends started talking about the TCM fest, they all wondered who would pay a minimum of 500 dollars for a 4-day pass for films you can, for the most part, see around town regularly or on DVD. I didn't have an answer for them, but after the fact, I have to admit I feel terribly parochial. The folks from Turner knew better. The festival was an incredible success and for reasons those of us who live in Los Angeles wouldn't necessarily think of.
First of all, the TCM festival was a stark reminder of how lucky we are. Between LACMA, UCLA, the Cinematheque at the Aero and the Egyptian, the Silent Movie Theater and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the public has amazing access to foreign and old films (a misnomer because if you haven't seen it before, it is new). And then if you are in the business or have friends who are, there is the DGA, the Writer's Guild, and the studios to see the latest films. In other words, we are spoiled rotten.
And we are spoiled not only in terms of what is screening around town, but in the quality of our theaters and audiences. It turns out that over 80 percent of the several thousand people who attended the TCM fest were from out of town, giving it the feel of a convention. When I asked a dozen of them of them, in a totally unscientific survey, what the best part was, they all mentioned the joy of being in theaters where cellphones don't go off, people stay seated and don't talk through the entire film. My samplings were people from Iowa, Texas, Pennsylvania and Missouri and, totally unprompted, they spoke of a sense of community that permeated the theaters.
While we keep hearing that going out to the movies is a thing of the past because of Netflix and high def, the lure of the theater experience drew people from all over the country. Most of them said they couldn't wait until next year; TCM announced it would be an annual event. We in Los Angeles (who could buy tickets to single screenings) can only hope that they chose a weekend that doesn't overlap the Festival of Books.