Category Archives: showcase at the ritz

The New AMC Marlton 8 Movie Theatre

I admit I was a bit hesitant when I heard the plan. The AMC Marlton Movie Theatre was going to jettison hundreds of seats in order to install new reclining loungers. I thought it was the last gasp of an already dying, perhaps on its last gasp, local theater. My friends and I called it literally ‘the dead theater.’ There was never anyone there, you always got a parking spot in front, and when the news came that they had finally closed, no one would be surprised. Not in the least.

Allow me to swallow those words.

Twenty, thirty years ago, the Marlton 8 as we called it, because it had a multiplex of eight theaters, a novelty at the time, was the happening place to be on the weekend. It was the place to be seen, and the place to see all the latest movies. Every date happened here. Welcome to the 1980s. Die Hard, The Breakfast Club, Amadeus, Batman, Weird Science, Robocop, Dirty Dancing, even Silence of the Lambs, I saw them here, and so did everyone else I knew.

There was a time, with the T.G.I.Fridays and the long forgotten ice cream parlor in the strip mall, every parking spot was taken and police had to direct traffic within the shopping center, sometimes blocking areas off to kids and other foot traffic. Three months ago, and as far back as maybe a decade ago however, the place was a ghost town. Business had moved elsewhere, into Voorhees with the Ritz, now Rave, and into Cherry Hill with the airport terminal sized and customer unfriendly AMC Loews with a whopping twenty-four theaters.

This weekend, The Bride and I had date night, On the Border for dinner and then Jack the Giant Slayer for movie. As this was the first week the Marlton renovation was complete, we chose there. I was stunned when we pulled into the nearly full parking lot. This was the Marlton 8 of old. Things got better as we went inside.

The lobby got a nice repaint and remodel as well. The refreshment area is a bit different too. Besides new menu items like chicken fingers, chicken sliders, pizza, and oh yes, French fries, there were also two Coca-Cola Freestyle machines. Color me impressed.

We did have to wait a while for them to clean the theater before we could go in and sit. I’m thinking it takes more time to clean individual seats than it did previously to just do a quick sweep. The line of impatient folks waiting to get in were not so understanding. I guess no matter how nice a theater is, there will still be jackasses who complain, and talk during the movie, use their cellphones, and bring toddlers to 10 PM showtimes – no way around it. Damn mankind, we’re doomed.

The new seats are incredible, reclining loungers that come in pairs where can pull up the arm between them and cuddle. They also come with three cup holders each and touch controls to go up and down. Sooo nice. I did notice the theater’s current occupancy was now 115 where it used to be between 200 and 300.

This is an incredible risk for the theater financially, especially when you consider we paid a very reasonable price for two prime time 3D tickets, nearly a third less than we would have paid at the Rave or Loews. I hope it succeeds.

I loved this movie experience. I have a new favorite theater. I can’t wait to go back.

The Projectionist

The Projectionist ~ I had the pleasure of attending a showing, an incomplete version apparently, of The Projectionist: A Passion for Film. This is a documentary about local film historian and preservationist Lou DiCrescenzo. While unfinished, it’s rather bittersweet as viewers learn of Lou’s fight with diabetes, and how the disease has beaten him down in recent years. He still keeps on kicking and providing a wonderful asset to the film community in the South Jersey/Philadelphia area.

I’ve gotten to know Lou from afar very slowly as he’s introduced older films at first the Ritz, and then the Rave in Voorhees for a couple years now. They run a program on Monday afternoons called Silver Screen Classics, each week featuring a classic (and sometimes not-so classic) movie from the past. Except when he’s been ill, Lou was right up front with a microphone before each showing giving background and telling the secrets behind that week’s feature. Sometimes we’d even get a short or a cartoon from Lou’s private collection. His knowledge and insight are always a treasure.

I look forward to when this documentary might be finished and can be shown publicly. It’s a great story of a great man. Look for it, if you see it, it’ll be worth it. A couple upcoming shows are listed here. In the meantime, don’t forget to check out Silver Screen Classics on Monday afternoons at the Rave.

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Silent Hunchback at the Ritz

The Hunchback of Notre Dame ~ I love silent film, but apparently I am one of the few. I was kinda surprised at the turnout for this 1923 masterpiece compared to other films presented by Silver Screen Classics at Showcase at the Ritz. I even overheard one woman at the box office upset that this wasn’t the Charles Laughton. She asked for her money back when she heard it was silent. She objected to having to read, she said. Surprisingly she saw a subtitled movie instead – go figure.

Now don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against the 1939 version of Hunchback with Laughton, it’s terrific, and Maureen O’Hara was amazing. But the 1923 Lon Chaney version is classic, the best in my opinion, and not the original, it should be noted either. Victor Hugo’s novel has been filmed multiple times throughout film history. Not seeing this version just because it’s silent, to me, is like refusing to see The Wizard of Oz because Judy Garland is not Fairuza Balk. Oh well, it’s your loss, folks.

Michelle McDonald, a manager at Showcase at the Ritz, has gotten much better at the introductions of the movies here, but film historian Lou DiCrescenzo is still much missed. I hope he returns soon. His knowledge and love and respect of the artform is unparalleled. After some fun and waiting on a new projectionist, the movie finally started.

Sadly, this was not a great print, but strictly speaking, there really aren’t that many great prints of this one. In fact, a complete version doesn’t exist, that we know of, we’re still missing ten to fifteen minutes from what I understand.

Amazing sets and the always amazing make-up and portrayal of Lon Chaney highlight this film. There is a ponderous cast of characters, and that and the long setting up of the story are not strictly the film’s fault, but Victor Hugo’s. Tastes from the time it was written to the time of this past century had changed. Disney actually did a fairly excellent job of Cliff-noting it (and also unfortunately politically correcting it as well) many decades later in 1996.

Esmeralda as played by Patsy Ruth Parker is wonderful, and Nigel DeBrulier as Don Claudio and Ernest Torrence as Clopin are terrific villains – who were notably combined into one for the aforementioned Disney adaptation. And Chaney, hell, Lon Chaney is always amazing. This is the role that cemented his legendary status as both a performer and a make-up master. He is the king. Quasimodo’s whipping scene, pivotal in the film, is particularly intense. Chaney is genius at portraying both monstrous and pitiful at once. Though brief, Esmeralda and Quasimodo’s scenes are far more entrancing than Parker with any of the other male leads.

While Parker and Chaney stand out in this film, silents were the realm of pantomime and over the top acting. Here the poet Gringoire as played by Raymond Hatton – famous later in life for The Three Mesquiteers – is the champion. Even though he has his share of dramatic moments as well, his humorous takes steal his scenes, especially one with Norman Kerry’s Phoebus.

The film exhibits quite a political side. The caption cards especially are quick to lay the blame for tortures like the whipping and other atrocities that were done to the lower classes solidly at King Louis XI’s feet. Sometimes the class war looms largely here than any individual’s story. But of course – that’s what Victor Hugo is all about.

When the climatic siege of Notre Dame begins we see some of Chaney’s best scenes as he throws stone blocks and pours molten lead on his attackers from above. Even as a kid I was enthralled by that scene. Great stuff, always worth seeing.

This film is a mix of many genres, several scenes go by without Chaney on screen where the film could have simply been a period piece with no horror overtones. Sometimes you forget what you’re watching, during the Esmeralda and Phoebus scenes specifically. To me this is the sign of a well-rounded story and presentation.

No matter how you see it, 1923’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a film masterpiece, and must see. Highly recommended. See it, and see it on the big screen if at all possible.

A note on Silver Screen Classics, with the theatre recently being purchased by Rave, it’s now calling their Monday afternoon features the Rave Cinema Classics. Same films, same website, different name. Keep ‘em coming, folks!

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Loews Cherry Hill Does Not Want My Business

You’ve all heard my rap on Loews Theatres in Cherry Hill NJ before, but after my experience Christmas night I have come to the conclusion that not only don’t they want my money – they don’t want your money either, and furthermore, they just don’t care.

For the scary high prices they now charge for a movie ticket, well over ten dollars, they expect you to watch a film sometimes with the lights on, usually with audience members talking loudly, either to each other or on their cellphones, and texting throughout. And if you say anything to these other audience members they will sometimes go as far as to threaten you. That’s just part of the experience at the Cherry Hill Loews it seems, part of what you’re paying for I guess.

Now when I brought this to the attention of the manager on duty, Kathryn by name (and only first name as employees are not allowed to give their full names, nor are they allowed to give the names of superiors), the theatres are supposed to be checked by an employee once per show. I never saw anyone come in, and if they had, they would have seen all the lit cellphones and also noticed that the audience noise was drowning out the sound of the film.

Now an argument might be made that they were busy that night and might not have had time to check the theatres. Why then did more than a few employees I saw (before the film when it was even busier) have time to chat with friends, throw cups back and forth behind the snack counter, and chase each other into the rest room? Yeah, they were busy all right.

Now Kathryn No-Name was nice enough give us passes to see another film at the wonderful Loews Theatres where we would be treated to probably a similar experience. I would have rather gotten my money back. After all, if I had gotten rat poison instead of Frosted Flakes, do you think the folks at Kelloggs would have given me my money back or another box of rat poison?

Is this what the movie theatre experience is about these days? At least at Loews Cherry Hill it is. There is an alternative. I would like to direct anyone seeking a movie night out to the Showcase at the Ritz in Voorhees. It’s not far from Loews and has just about the same variety of films and even some from off the beaten path. Not only is the viewing experience a pleasure, but the staff is friendly and cooperative. They also have various special events and goodies all the time. They have my full endorsement, and would love your business. And no, I don’t know anyone there, nor do I work for them, they just know about customer service unlike some theatres.

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Toy Stories in 3-D

Last night we got to see a delightful treat, but it was a long way to get there. We planned on seeing the special Toy Story and Toy Story 2 double feature in 3-D, but got a late start of it since, surprisingly, The Bride and I are pretty busy people. We had a variety of choices and settled on a 10:35 show at the Cinemark in Somerdale, but once we got there we found that that show was in fact on for the second movie. What the f with the showtimes? Don’t think we’re going back to Cinemark anytime soon.

We hit the Showcase at the Ritz who had their showtimes right and correct, and we enjoyed the double feature immensely. For those wondering, it was a great flick/flicks, bookended with new material as well as a cool intermission with trivia and behind the scenes stuff. We also got 3-D previews of Toy Story 3 and other upcoming 3-D features. A good time was had by all, except those who went to the Cinemark…

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Silver Screen Monday

I went to Silver Screen Classics yesterday to catch a film that I have been told several times I need to see – Scarlet Street. Granted, I would have gotten around to getting the disc on my Netflix queue eventually, but trust me, it’s always better to see anything, especially a classic film, on the big screen. For those of you not in the know, every Monday at the Showcase at the Ritz in Voorhees NJ, film historian Lou DiCrescenzo presents a classic film from years gone by along with a short subject, all on the big screen.

Scarlet Street is a classic film noir from master director Fritz Lang, starring tough guy Edward G. Robinson playing completely against type. He’s a cashier and wannabe artist caught in a web of deceit with femme fatale Joan Bennett and her abusive con artist boyfriend Dan Duryea. Some of us might remember an older Joan Bennett as the matronly Elizabeth Stoddard on “Dark Shadows.” Her role here shows she was once very hot stuff. Moody atmospheric and what every film noir should be, I really enjoyed this, and probably more than I would have had I simply seen it on a television screen.

Before the feature, Mr. DiCrescenzo presented a two-reel Mack Sennett comedy starring W.C. Fields called The Barber Shop. Great gags, and he was notably upstaged by both a kid and a dog. Terrific stuff.

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