“The Merry Gentleman” a must-see movie

Christine Varotsis, Mark Hogan and Tom Bastounes urge us to get our butts over to a seat in a theatre showing “The Merry Gentleman” this week to show support of a locally-made film.

The call for action comes after Chicago showed an embarrassingly low per-screen average compared with New York and Los Angeles… like 40% lower.


Not only is the “The Merry Gentleman” an all-local production that boosted Chicago’s creds as an established production center, but it earned a cluster of star ratings from the Sun-Times’ Roger Ebert, the Tribune’s Michael Phillips, the New York Times, the L.A. Times and many other news and internet outlets.

But the audience results surprised and embarrassed a lot of people and made them cringe over the lack of support for one of its own and a three star picture, at that.

Christina Varotsis, the movie’s producer, is leading the call for the movie’s support, and that indigenous

“Can you believe this?” says Varotsis about the Coasts’ superior per screen average. “We need to turn these averages around.”

And the way to do it, she declares, is “to take in a show and also encourage your friends and colleagues to go see it.” Furthermore, she adds with chin high civic pride, “it happens to be a good film.”

Businessman Tom Bastounes, who has a second career as an actor, is the man who rounded up local funding for the “under $10 million movie.”

He emphasizes that “Gentleman” employed a 100% local crew and vendors, and an all-Chicago cast, with the exception of the three leads, unlike a “Dark Knight,” which imported its cast and most of its crew from California.

“This movie put money in everyone’s pocket and it’s movies like this that help maintain our infrastructure,” said Hogan, who represents the 800-member Studio Mechanics union.

“The Merry Gentleman” was written by Ron Lazzeretti. He had directed Bastounes in the 1999 “Opera Lover,” when he co-owned The Two Olives, one of the city’s busiest spot houses.

Michael Keaton, who stars, not only agreed to star, when he read the script, but said he wanted to direct it. His co-stars are Kelly Macdonald, Bobby Cannavale, Bastounes and Darlene Hunt.

The story is about Kate (Macdonald) on the run from an abusive husband, who meets a Frank (Keaton), who is tormented by a dark secret and they form a tentative friendship.

You’ll have to see how this relationship turns out for yourself.

Here’s where you can see “The Merry Gentleman:” Chicago ‘s Landmark Century Centre Cinema, Evanston Century 12/CineArts, Regal Lincolnshire Stadium 20 & IMAX, AMC Cantera 30 in Warrenville and Barrington.