There’s a little bit of France in Georgia. And it’s in Athens at the Cine Theater.
Even though I saw Tom DiCillo’s Doors documentary “When You’re Strange” in Atlanta when it briefly played here, it wasn’t the same as my experience in Athens. For one, the theater in Athens made an effort to promote the film. Since the film only played for a week in Atlanta, I was disappointed that it didn’t play in Athens sooner. However, in retrospect, their timing was perfect. The Athens music/film fest is going on, which is essentially a downtown street party for about 3 blocks, of which the Cine theater is part of. Fliers and posters were everywhere around the music venues, along with coupons to come see something at the Cine.
This was the type of promotion that I wish all theaters in the US would have done. In fact, I even suggested it but my suggestions never saw the light of day. In France, they did. Posters throughout the city, lots of promotion thanks to MK2, the French distributor. But there was a little sprinkling of that magic in Athens, which was wonderful to see.
A big poster hung outside, and mini posters adorned the walls near the bar. There was a bar in the lobby, they even had plush blue couches that reminded me of hotel lobby furniture in the places where my family used to take vacations when I was a kid. After having a drink at the bar, I went to get my ticket. One guy next to me asked for 2 tickets to the other film playing, but the cashier misunderstood him and asked, “Two for ‘When You’re Strange’?” He said no, 2 tickets to the other film. Then he tilted his head and said, “I didn’t think there were other films showing during this time slot. What’s WYS about?”
I couldn’t help myself. I put on a big Southern smile, turned to him and said, “It’s a documentary about the Doors. It’s an incredible film, and I drove 2 hours just to see it.”
The woman behind me nodded before adding, “I drove 3 hours.”
The guy turned back to the cashier and said, “Make that 2 for ‘When You’re Strange’ then!” After the film was over, I asked him if he was happy that I’d changed his mind. He grinned wide and said, “Absolutely! What an amazing film!”
Even though this film is coming out on DVD in 3 days (release date 6/29), to my surprise the theater was 90% full. There was an equal percentage of age groups - - some students from Univ of GA, some people in their 30s, 40s, 50s, some older people who had grown up with the Doors. And the thing that amazed me most was—for 90 minutes, no one picked up a cell phone. Not to text, not to check the clock, not even to make sure they hadn’t missed a call. Not one person, even the college kids who these days are pretty much addicted to cell phones, are they not?
In addition, no one talked or offered their commentary in loud whispers—a common occurrence in some Hollywood films. Everyone sat entranced for 90 minutes, giggling in some humorous places, sighing with empathy in others. One woman’s head kept shifting side to side w/the music every time it would play.
At the film’s closing line, everyone laughed and clapped in applause. It was perfect. The perfect chance to see a great film on the big screen for the last time, before it goes to DVD on Tuesday.
A job well done to all involved :)