Saturday, July 29, 2006

Trek to the Hills, 1979

December 7, 1979: my girlfriend and I have joined the throng on Crocker's walk around 4pm, in a gigantic line awaiting the premiere of Star Trek's first comeback, "Star Trek: The Motion Picture".

It's cold--we're bundled up and shivering, and other people have brought sleeping bags and little heaters, making the line look like an encampment. Every 10 minutes, a self-designated timekeeper near the front of the line yells out something like, "2 hours and 40 minutes to go!" And everyone cheers. Every time. The cheers are especially large for major markers--"2 hours!"--"1 hourrrrr!"--and when it gets down to the last 5 minutes, it's completely crazy, a call every minute. The street nearly explodes when the call "Doors opening!" comes through. The packs are hoisted, the wallets unpocketed. The line inches inward, into blissful, popcorn-scented warmth.

More cheers as the surprisingly austere main title comes on. And when the Klingon ship first dips into view. A news crew is there filming, as an unrecognizably-made-up Mark Lenard (as the Klingon captain) yells something like "Kreplach!" and photon torpedoes shoot into the mysterious space cloud. It is like the Beatlemanic screenings of "A Hard Day's Night": every time a familiar character hits the screen: screams, applause. Des Moines native Stephen Collins, as Commander Decker, tells Captain Kirk that Kirk doesn't know the Enterprise a tenth as well as he does. "Bull$#*+!!" calls someone from the peanut gallery. Laughs, more applause.

The film goes on, at first indulgent--47 closeups of the refitted Enterprise in porno detail!--then glacial: 7-minute shots of the V'ger cloud intercut with Sulu and Uhura staring wordlessly into its maw. But none of us care. We have all sent our letters to Paramount and Roddenberry over the years, and have just received the fruits of our democratic actions, just in time for Christmas. The pace picks up just in time to give the finale some of the adrenaline of the original series, and then we all spill smiling into the winter night, looking for our cars through puffs of icy breath.

We have seen new Star Trek, with the original cast (and a Des Moines native), on a Cinerama screen, in Dolby surround, at the fabulous River Hills.

Ahhh. Moviegoing!

Documentary Update

My apologies for being so long between posts, but I've been busy--with new materials that have come in for the film project.

First off, Mr. Bob Fridley, of Fridley Theatres and Video, sent me a wonderful box of photos, clippings, ads, and articles from his personal collection--including rare shots of the Capri, Varsity, River Hills and Riviera, and the Lincoln/Holiday. I've been busy scanning and animating these items, and the results thus far have been really exciting for me. And Mr. Fridley has invited me to visit him when I'm in town this August, which should be a real treat.

Mr. Bob Meza, of NBC (heck, just a mile or so away from the Technicolor office in Burbank), has graciously allowed use of his theater photos, most of which cover the demolition of the Riviera and River Hills on--of all dates--September 11, 2001. Smaller versions of these can be seen over here on the Cinematour site.

Last and not least, the wonderful people at Wetherell Ericsson Architecture were gracious enough to dig up a complete set of blueprints for the Hiland Theater that the firm made back in 1938 when it was still the Wetherell-Harrison partnership. These are astounding to see on a number of levels--the detail, the craftsmanship, even the hand-lettered material (with the striking diagonal O's) is something to see. (These plans refer to the second, Moderne-style Hiland at 423 Euclid that exhibited from 1938 to 1967, not the previous house at 3602-6th that opened in 1923 and ran until the second version was constructed.)

I will continue to make posts, and offer a bit of this new material now and then, but there's a lot of work to do still on the doc itself. Please be patient--I promise it will be worth the wait!

And, as ever, if you should happen to stumble on any materials, please let me know--it's likely they will make it into the film somehow!