Your humble critic made the move to Escondido in February. I was just getting accustomed to calling Reading Cinema’s Carmel Mountain my new base of operation, when last week’s check for showtimes (I needed a second look at Paul Blart 2) revealed that the theater is closed for renovations.
Not long after Reading Cinemas took control of our town’s four Pacific builds (the Gaslamp, Town Square, Grossmont, and Carmel Mountain) in 2008, rumors began to swirl questioning the Australian chain’s commitment to quality cinema in San Diego. “They bought ’em as a tax write-off,” one colleague noted a year later, “and aren’t in it for the long haul.” Another critic had it on good authority (from a realtor friend) that the property upon which the Gaslamp 15 sits is far too valuable to house a mere movie complex and the building was earmarked as an indoor mall. This was later modified: the upstairs theaters would remain intact and the main floor turned into retail space.
Each fact-checking call to Reading was met with the same puzzled response: “Where do you get your information?” And last week’s email questioning the status of Carmel Mountain merited a reply replete with joyous news (and a certified proof of commitment). San Diego will soon be home to a state-of-the-art Angelika Film Center. “A cultural institution in New York City since 1989,” writes regional publicity Director Jo Ellen Brantferger, “the original Angelika Film Center is one of the most successful art cinemas in North America.” Carmel Mountain will soon join New York, Dallas, Fairfax, VA, and Washington, D.C. as home to Film Center number five, and the first on the West Coast.
Some of the new amenities that await patrons when the theater reopens at the end of summer include plush VIP recliner seats in a stadium setting. The sleek modern design will work in “signature Angelika elements such as a striking three-tiered crystal chandelier accented in blue neon and a dramatic illuminated rendering of the Angelika logo.”
Expect a café with a “menu of craft beverages and bites curated by veteran Food Network executive Bruce Seidel and veteran Food Network chef Santos Loo.” However, unlike some of its competitors, the Angelika is a movie theater, not a restaurant that shows movies. There will be no phoning in drink orders mid-movie or waitstaff puncturing your field of vision while scurrying to deliver a frosty PBR. As a firm believer in the notion that cinema and alcohol poisoning don’t mix, I get my kicks on popcorn and soda. If you should decide to imbibe, please do so before the trailers hit the screen and try not to snore loudly.
More news to delight even the most jaded purist in the crowd: from what I’ve seen in several of the individual auditoriums, the screen masking opens side-to-side to accommodate ’Scope pictures. With all due respect, this contributes more to the moviegoing experience than chandeliers, neon, and bathtub suds. The following was also found in the fine print: “The new Angelika will offer a venue for the culturally rich San Diego community to experience not only a range of quality film, but also specially tailored film-based events, panels, and unique cinematic programs.”
I have but one request: 86 any thoughts of a reserved-seating policy. It’s understandable at Hollywood’s Cinerama Dome, but a hoity-toity Roadshow treatment for a 90-seat multiplex? First come, first served. It’s the American moviegoing way!
They’ll celebrate the grand opening with a festival of free movies. I’ve already offered my services to introduce Some Came Running, in CinemaScope and MetroColor! See you in September!