Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Whither the Tower Theater?

My recent experience of watching Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy in a freezing Tower Theater made me wonder what's up with Tower these days.  A few years ago, I was sympathetic to a push to save Tower Theater because the City Council was proposing to spend millions fixing up the downtown plaza multiplex (which is part of a big chain) while the scrappy, independent, architecturally beautiful and historically unique Tower was languishing.  Leaving aside the amusing thought of a city spending money on something (those were the days!), whatever happened to the promises that the Tower's management made at that time?

As I recall they said they'd paint it, refurbish it, perhaps even put in heat and make it suitable for all viewing audiences not just the current dwindling audience which seems to consist of highly educated able-bodied movie goers with heavy coats, no fear of steep stairs in the complete dark or shabby carpet with places to trip all of whom live within 3 miles of the theater.    For years this place has been a fire trap and they don't even have any lights to show you the exits.  It is an ADA lawsuit waiting to happen.

Until my recent experience of watching a movie virtually unprotected from the elements, I would defend this theater.  It shows great stuff.  It's in my neighborhood.  It's got the Tower Cafe next door and those plants.  What's not to like?

But it's impossible not to draw comparisons to the Crest Theater which some 15 years ago invested in a complete restoration of its gorgeous single screen space and then put in smaller screens downstairs.  Attracting parties, large events, speakers, and musicians as well as showing foreign and independent films, the investment seems to have paid off.

The Tower's owners seem to be cut from a different cloth.  Perhaps the city can't support two fully renovated gorgeous old theaters (I think it probably could, but what do I know whether it would pencil out), but surely some paint, some lights, new carpet, a few exit signs and some heat could do a lot to attract a wider audience.

What do you think?

1 comment:

Cliff Weimer said...

First, I agree with everything you said (I live within walking distance to the Tower, too).

It's depressing to go there. Not only is it shabby, but the concession stand staff seems to have a contest going to see who can be less friendly. So far, it seems to be a tie.

When we saw The Artist, there was pounding and drilling going on up on the roof through the whole film.

Yikes, I mean, c'MON. Sacramento needs another theatre, if only to compliment the Crest, which seems adverse to booking repertoiry films and vintage titles unless they're part of the Japanese or French film festival. It's ridiculous that Sacramentatertots (or whatever we call ourselves, I've never figured that out) have to drive down to the Castro to see restored film classics when they're released around the country.

Thanks for this opportunity to ramble.