Thursday, March 26, 2009

Going Underground



My newest Silver Spring pipe dream (preceded by my as-yet-unrealized schemes to open a bagel shop or gelato stand) is to renovate the underground Capri movie theater on Fenton Street and use it to screen a variety of cult movies and other films you can’t generally see at regular theaters. We'd have stuff like midnight showings of The Big Lebowski, Bollywood movies, kung fu matinees and zombie marathons. I realize that other recent independent movie theater ventures in the area haven't fared so well, but what the hell - maybe I can get a sweet deal on the rent since they clearly aren't getting any revenue from the space now. I would baptize my theater with obvious name of "Silver Spring Underground".

I emailed the property management company last week but as of yet have received zero response. At minimum I’d like to do a little urban exploration and snap some photos of the place. Who knows what condition it's in after thirty years of disuse. Anyone know the security guard over there or someone else who could let me in for a few minutes?

Also...

- On the subject of movie theaters, I went to a noon showing of Watchmen at the Majestic yesterday afternoon thinking that perhaps at a weekday matinee I could actually see a movie in peace. The box office and concession areas were gloriously empty:



(On a side note: as a former movie concession stand employee, I can tell you that you shouldn't buy any hot dogs before the first show of the day - those are the same ones that were rolling around on the warmer at 2 AM the night before.)

Once in the theater itself, there were maybe three other people there for the movie. At that point my chances for an uninterrupted moviegoing experience were looking pretty good. I made it about two hours into the nearly three-hour-long movie without a disturbance when in walks a pair of muppets pulling a double freeture who proceeded to conduct a conversation in their normal speaking volume until the closing credits ran. To add insult to injury, during the movie’s final scene two other clowns come through the entrance and start yelling to each other.

Clown 1: “THIS JONCE IS EMPTY!!!!!”
Clown 2: “EMPTY???”

Then, upon realizing that this particular jonce was in fact occupied, they started counting out loud the number of people in the theater. Why they were doing this, and what they planned to do in an empty theater, I can't imagine and probably don't want to know.

The moral of this story is that no matter when you go to the Majestic and no matter how quiet it may appear on the surface, you can't expect to remain undisturbed indefinitely. At the Silver Spring Underground, behavior like this will not be tolerated. Our ushers will be armed with Tasers and they will tase you, bro.

At least now there is one new service that can make your Majestic experience slightly more tolerable: you can now buy and print out tickets online, allowing you leave the box office lines to the suckers.

- TIP: If you received the Downtown Silver Spring coupon book in the mail this past week, be sure not to chuck it along with your standard junk mail. There are actually some worthwhile deals in there, such as $10 off $50 at Whole Foods and 20% off at Strosnider’s. These two discounts in particular are as good as cash as far as I'm concerned. Also, the regular ValPak mailings have some good ones too, as stuffed between the multiple duct cleaning offers is an excellent coupons for the Mr. Wash carwash on Georgia.



44 comments:

brh said...

I've grown to love coupon mailings, which seems so silly but a deal's a deal, I suppose.

My pipe dream is bike couriers through town, serving only local business/individuals, and encouraging people to deal with other local businesses, to communicate with other locals, etc...

It's fun to dream about what a town can be..

Woodside Park Bob said...

I saw movies occasionally in the Capri back in the early 1970s when I was in grad school. Once when I had to study, I walked to the theater with my wife, who bought a ticket and went in. It turned out that she had the entire theater all to herself for the whole movie (That's Entertainment). I wonder how disappointed the box office person was when after finally seeing two people walk up, only one bought a ticket! The projectionist must have been disappointed too; he probably could have gone home if no tickets had been sold.

I hope you have better luck if you actually can revive the theater!

Vagrarian said...

I would SO be there at your Capri. Hell, I'll work for you. An underground cult movie theater? Count me in.

I remember when the late great Visions downtown had "Kick the Keg" midnight shows. $15 tickets, a keg parked in the auditorium, and trashy movies you were encouraged to yell at. I saw SHOWGIRLS and BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS that way. I tell ya, that's the only way to see them...

Maybe shows that are "No Yelling" and "Yelling Encouraged"?

laura said...

Seriously, what is with these idiots in movie theaters? And why don't the people who work there usher anymore?? Saw Watchmen this weekend at the Uptown and had to listen to a couple clowns in the upper balcony loudly cutting up. And the theater was by no means empty.

Put up with it for about five minutes, then shouted at them to "SHUT IT!" (The couple behind us whispered "thanks.")

Meghan said...

How about we have them renovate the underground movie theater into a club. That would be awesome!

Anonymous said...

Oh no, please no clubs in Silver Spring...if P.G. County is any indication, they seem to harbor violence/rowdiness outside of the venue. I think there would be a huge market here for Bollywood/Cult films, though. I'm in!

Mortis Olaf said...

No, I'd rather see a club go there too. A movie theater would be cool and all, but Silver Spring already has two theaters. It could relieve Ellsworth of it's rowdiness, but it'd probably be a 21+ affair (for guys at least).

Mike said...

Rude people in movies? This has always worked for me (most recently at the Uptown when two 19-20-or so couples, one right in front of us and the other in the row in front of Loud Couple #1):

"If you don't quiet down now, I'm calling the ushers to have your asses thrown out. I'm not f**cking kidding."

Do right away, at the first sign of interrupting the actual flick. Works every time.

It helps to have a cold stare. :-)

Springvale Roader said...

Sligo,

Hey man, if you could turn that place into an underground underground cinema cinema, I'd be there, too. It would be great if Silver Spring had its own version of the Alama Drafthouse Cinema: http://www.drafthouse.com/

Meaning, you'd have to serve some kind of booze.

Hey Mike, bane of talkers: I like your style, but minus the cursing. After all, there are probably other people (older, modest, whatever) who don't want to hear foul language yelled out. Beyond that, stare 'em down!

Chaz said...

Mike's method assumes the ushers give a crap.

Movie whining posts--guaranTEED to bring out the comments.

Debbie Cook said...

It would be cool just to see the inside of that place. I'd love to know why it was closed such a long time ago and why leave that glass entrance thingy up on the street all these years?

Damn, I wish I had read this before the Val Pack, etc was pitched.

Sligo said...

Debbie, call some of your real estate contacts and get me a viewing!

Brian said...

I have lived in downtown Silver Spring since 1985 and have always wondered what was down there. I wonder how one goes about getting permission to enter and photograph this place?

Aaron said...

I saw Star Wars there in 1979 when I was five, but have very little memory of the theatre itself.

When I was in high school it was a Chinese language movie theatre that featured kung fu films, but that was before I had heard of Jackie Chan and found out that kung fu films were cool so I never went.

As for cinema draft houses, I doubt that anyone wants to open one in Silver Spring after the Wheaton debacle.

Sligo said...

Aaron, funny you should mention that, because I have one of those "was it real or not?" memories of seeing Star Wars there as well. I would have been 4 at the time. It may have been Empire Strikes Back, but the theater probably was closed or about to close by that time.

Springvale Roader said...

"As for cinema draft houses, I doubt that anyone wants to open one in Silver Spring after the Wheaton debacle."

I'm sure I'm not alone in wanting this. I don't know what went wrong in Wheaton -- maybe it was the lousy location -- but there are enough film buffs and bad movie fans in Silver Spring and nearby (definitely Takoma Park) to make this place work.

I would go to a place like this to drink sake and watch a Kurosawa retrospective where people paid rapt and silent attention. I'd also go to a place like this to drink beer and shout out wisecracks at a Robot Monster/Creeping Terror double-feature. And so would my wife, so that's at least two customers.

Sligo said...

The theater would sell beer like the AFI Does but it wouldn't be a drafthouse with table service, etc.

Mike said...

Oh, I never yell at the offenders. The voice is as low and hard as I can manage. And it doesn't matter whether the ushers "give a crap" or not--only that the offenders think they possibly do.

Okay, granted, that might not always be the case. But so far, so good. :-) Of course, YMMV.

Eileen said...

I went to see "I Love You, Man" at the AMC Georgetown late Wednesday afternoon. I've had good experiences at this theater before (because it's usually empty), but it was definitely a mistake to go during the first week after opening. There were maybe 5-6 "pairs" of people -- and quite an amazing variety from different backgrounds/cultures, some couples, some not -- ALL of whom proceeded to talk throughout the previews and then into the movie. They even talked about how they liked the "Don't spoil the movie by adding you own soundtrack" blurb. I put my earplugs in (always carry them) and it was little help. Finally, I moved further down front and, with earplugs still in, was able to watch the movie in peace. I took them out periodically to check on the ambient conditions and still the chattering went on. But it amazed me -- how could so many people be so badly behaved?

So, good luck with the underground theater -- if you really promise to taser the morons, I will make the trip over to SS to support your efforts. In fact, here's a possible PSA you could put up before all movies: "In Philadelphia, one man shot another for talking in a movie theater. If someone is misbehaving here, please do not shoot them. Our ushers will be along soon enough with their tasers. THIS IS NOT YOUR LIVING ROOM. SHUT UP, OR THERE WILL BE JUSTICE."

Thomas Hardman said...

Dan Reed gives excellent coverage of what happened to Wheaton Cinema and Drafthouse.

Last night, at the Montgomery Community Television taping of a Candidate's Forum, I got to talking with Andrew Padula who is a surprisingly accomplished musician with a long career as a professional in the field. I was mentioning that a lot of the District 4 voters who had contacted me all complained about the dearth of things to do, especially for younger folks (15-25 or so) in District 4.

Mr Padula informed me that there is some club in Burtonsville -- sorry I don't remember the name -- that did have live bands, in fact he just saw a live band there. But Burtonsville is a long haul from Aspen Hill, or Olney, or Sandy Spring or Ashton.

Even Wheaton is a long haul, and they no longer have a theater, nor does Olney, nor does Aspen Hill, nor so far as I know does Burtonsville.

I think there's a clear market for young-adult entertainment, and everyone can enjoy seeing a movie, and I'd like to be able to see one without having to drive over to Rockville or Silver Spring.

Why the County seems determined to make it difficult to run such a venue, it's beyond my understanding.

nikki said...

You know what be awesome to have at the underground movie theater? Old skool usher and usherette costumes. They could have special pockets sewn into them to hold the tasers.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like the solution is right here....

Good Behavior theaters and Bad Behavior theaters. If you are a run-your-damn-mouth-through-the-damn-movie person, go to the bad behavior theater. If you are a shut-up-I-want-to-hear-this-movie person, go to the good behavior theater.

Or - Under 21 and Over 21 theaters. The loudmouths and teenagers could have their own theater, and the ones who actually want to HEAR the movie could have their own theater.

But tasers should defnitely be part of the plan. Definitely.

TheDadReport.com said...

Could be worse. In some aspects we're held up as a paragon of success:
http://tinyurl.com/d93b3n

Thomas Hardman said...

About the loudmouth kids that can't STFU in theaters?

Seriously: kids absolutely are craving responsible adult advice.

Maybe they don't want to hear it directly from responsible adults.

But who cares?

Just walk right up to them and sit right behind them and don't let them watch the movie. Be louder than them, and when they finally get to the point of getting all up in your face and saying STFU old fscker, you just tell 'em right back, "now you know how I feel. The time and place to discuss the film experience is after everyone has had the opportunity to actually see it as it is, without comments from the Peanut Gallery, peanut! Now STFU, you got some remarks, tell me after the show, not now. Let's all sit down and respect whoever made this by being quiet while we're watching. Tell me later. Now is not the time."

If they will ever have any sense, they will listen and obey at that exact moment. It they don't listen and obey at that exact moment, make sure that for the rest of their days, they will never for whatever reason or for whatever cause Get Paid for anything.

In other words, they have to listen to your reasonable requests delivered in a respectful way, or starve penniless for the rest of their short and miserable lives.

which ideally would end shortly after they fail to pay attention and STFU.

Anonymous said...

Or - Under 21 and Over 21 theaters

This is actually an amazing,a nd probably workable, idea. We should start a petition to the management at the Majestic to set aside a few theater's on the weekends for over 21. Could be a great project for our local blogs to get off the floor...

Sligo said...

I think they have that at the Mazza Gallerie theater. There's an over-21 section that has a bar.

Anonymous said...

Sligo, Maybe you could implement the same sort of thing here in the comments page... one comment site for people who are concise, another for those who are inclined to diatribes and diarrhea...

Joel Sparks said...

An underground cinema? I'm so there. As for crowd control: Just charge $1 more than the Majestic, and don't show anything made in the last year, and hoi polloi won't show up. In the winter, 1 pm shows of kid flix would make you a second fortune from rained-in caretakers. Free popcorn sells juice boxes too!

Anonymous said...

Totally unrelated to anything anyone's been talking about, but what the hell happened to Quimby's auto repair? I was at the revamped Safeway on Thayer the other day (what was the quote from last fall about lipstick and a pig??) when I noticed that Quimby's was no more.
Also, what's going on in that strip on Georgia next to Piratz Tavern?

Terry in Silver Spring said...

I worked in a concession stand at the old Capital Centre in the early 80's. The hotdogs we sold were often a week or so old. After they'd been around a while, we'd be ordered to change the foiled wrapper and the bun, then sell them unless they'd grown fuzz or something. The popcorn came prepopped in shrink wrapped bales. It was ok, unless the mice had chewed their way into a bale and eaten. Then you were supposed to pour the popped kernals into the popcorn machine (heater, the popper unit didn't work of course) and shake it until any potential mouse dropping fell out of the popcorn and through the grating in the bottom. There was a lot worse stuff, too. I worked a Sugar Ray Leonard fight at a stand alone beer cart and about every third keg was bad (taste, sometimes smell). I really thought one of those very angry men bring beer back was going to hit me over that one. Boy, the jobs you have in college, huh?

Anonymous said...

Any update on the Hook and Ladder Restaurant that was supposed to open on GA Ave. in the old Firehouse like 3 years ago? I fear that the idiots at MoCo have finally killed it with their red tape.

Sligo said...

The Hook & Ladder is still scheduled to open this year. They had an event in the firehouse a couple weeks back where they had the plans on display.

Sarah said...

the theater idea is AWESOME! i'd love it. yeah, over-21 and under-21 is great - mazza gallerie does do this. so does the fantastic arclight in los angeles, the best movie theater ever.

Thomas Hardman said...

Speaking of Theaters, don't forget to come out tonight to the AFI Theater for the Candidate Forum sponsored by the Young Democrats.

Sligo, you could maybe make a brief update post to the blog, about this?

Anonymous said...

I Hate Yuppies said...

Sligo,

I doubt Hook & Ladder will open this year due to the craptastic market conditions. Just a hunch.

The H&L dudes are better off holding out until 2010 when people have more confidence to spend money on beer and eating out.

-IHY-

WashingtonGardener said...

Quimby's moved locations - no biggie. So did TOTAS on Fenton. The usual Fenton Village musical chairs -- I'm much more upset about the closing of Ritz Camera. I'm still pining for the Industrial Photo days of yore.

Anonymous said...

I remember going to The Capri back in the 70's. For some reason I remember seeing some Towering Inferno ripoff called Earthquake. I'm all for making it an alternative theater but you need to cast a wide net to make it successful. Don't limit yourself to one genre and keep the content flowing. I'm not sure about the drafthouse idea. I mean seriously can't you alcoholics go for two hours without a drink?

I say go for it!

Libby said...

I guess we are going to see different movies at different times, but I dont' have these same experiences at the Majestic. We were just there two Saturdays ago to see the very boring Duplicity (we were bored and a movie seemed a good idea) and there were probably 9 people total in the movie, and we didn't have any disturbances. We have gone to quite a few Saturday matinees (before 5 P.M.) and we never have issues. Just my two cents.

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Why waste time and space. It is an excellent idea to utilize the underground, of course, not for such underground activities.

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A collection of overlooked and underrated movies that deserve to be discovered in such underground theaters. Nice idea!

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It is an excellent idea to utilize the underground for those better purposes. I appreciate your easy and humorous talk.

Eviction Forms said...

The denizens deserve a suitable place for recreation and relax on Sundays or after a hard day's work. But, unfortunately, there is no such place what to speak of a decent movie theater.

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Couldn't it be more troublesome then as underground movie theaters could encourage cult groups to get together and exercise their practice sessions.

Sued by Debt Collector said...

I appreciate your nice initiative to name the theater. It would certainly justify the present state of the space. Hope they would respond soon to your suggestion.