Going Attractions: An Important Film Documentary

Randolph Street in Chicago in Going Attractions.

Going Attractions: The Definitive Story of the Movie Palace is a stark reminder of what we lose in the ever-changing cinema landscape.

There are a number of historic movie palace theaters featured in the documentary.  Sadly, there are movie palaces no longer with us.  In some instances, they’ve been demolished to rubble.  In other instances, only the facade survived after preservationists spoke out.  Make no mistake that the business of going to the movies have changed.  Nobody is disputing this but there’s certainly something we lose by watching a movie by ourselves at home.  America has come a long way since the vaudeville circuit.

While the business may be changing, we have to fight to keep the history alive.  When the studio system was alive and well, many studios would build a theater in order to show their films.  We’re not just talking about the basic cineplex here but huge movie palaces with up to 2,000 seats or more.  What filmmaker April Wright does through photos and interviews is show their history.  How did they get their start and what happened to them?  The biggest thing to take into account at the moment is cinema preservation.  It’s not just enough to preserve film negatives.  One of the most pressing issues today is fighting to save these theaters.

We see it right now in Chicago with a number of palace theaters.  Some are in the process of being restored.  Others are in the wait-and-see mode.  Chicago certainly isn’t the only city where this is taking place.  The battle is also being waged in New York and Los Angeles.  Theaters include The Uptown and the Avalon New Regal in Chicago, and the Fox Inglewood and Hollywood Warner in Los Angeles.

Leonard Maltin in Going Attractions
Leonard Maltin in Going Attractions

Film critic and historian Leonard Maltin said it the best just over an hour into the film:

“I salute anybody and everybody that has a hand in saving these great theaters and finding a way to keep them alive.  It’s not enough to save them–we have to keep them going somehow.  You have to find a way to breathe life into them but it’s worth the effort.  It’s really worth the effort because once you tear it down and you can’t rebuild it–once it’s gone, it’s gone.

Maltin isn’t wrong.  During the end credit interviews, he talks of daughter Jessie Maltin watching Laurel and Hardy in a crowd of 2,000 people.  While Jessie was a pre-teen at the time, both of them remember the experience years later.  This is the beauty of the shared experience that we take in while watching a movie theater.  It’s an experience that we lose out on while watching at home.

Going Attractions: The Definitive Story of the Movie Palace shows the importance of cinema history and how vital it is to preserve these theaters.

DIRECTOR:  April Wright
FEATURING:  Leonard Maltin, Rosie Novellino-Mearns, Ross Melnick, Escott O. Norton, Richard Fosbrink, Jerald Gary, Matt Lambros, Barbara Twist, Craig Morrison, Jerry Michelson, Dave Strohmaier

Going Attractions opened in select theaters on October 25, 2019. The Chicago premiere takes place on November 12, 2019 at the Music Box Theatre in Chicago. Grade: 4/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.