history from the
perspective of the theatre
April Wright’s Going Attractions: The Definitive Story of the Movie Palace is scheduled to screen in Chicago on November 12 at 7 pm. Momentous in its scope, Wright’s documentary chronicles the story of movies through an often-ignored lens, the places where they were experienced.
In the spirit of its subject matter, Going Attractions is having its Chicago premiere at the Music Box Theatre – one of the many movie palaces featured in the film.
Zion native and former Chicagoan, Wright admits that screening at the Music Box is special and reflects, “That’s the theatre I used to go to all the time when I lived in Chicago.”
Beginning with nickelodeons, Going Attractions eventually tours surviving theatres across the country, including Chicago’s Uptown Theatre, Athenaeum Theatre, Avalon New Regal Theatre, and Music Box. Wright’s film utilizes archival footage and interviews with figures in the theater industry, such as the New Avalon’s Jerald Gary and the Theatre Historical Society’s Craig Morrison.
Going Attraction’s educational and historical content is matched by its entertainment value. Wright attributes this to the decision to skip a narrator and instead include a diverse range of dynamic interviewees.
She states, “Everyone is telling stories. It’s history, and it’s information, but it’s not a history lesson. It’s a guy saying, ‘You know, let me tell you a story about this woman Mary Pickford and what she did, and let me tell you about this guy named Roxy and what he did.”
Those stories cover the movie palace boom of the 1920s, the multiplexing of theatres, their decay in the late 20th century, and remaining theatres’ survival and hopeful revival. Despite this breadth and range of subjects, the story flows smoothly from beginning to end.
Wright reflects on this and states that many people at her screenings have remarked, “Wow. How did you get all of that in there, and yet, it’s so clear and easy to understand?”
She credits this with her pre-production vigor and states, “I start with an outline because I do a lot of research, and then, I get involved in the communities that are close to the topic.”
Her preparation in pre-production is matched with expertise in the editing room.
Wright has also directed and edited numerous other documentaries, including the award-winning and equally momentous Going Attractions: The Definitive Story of the American Drive-in Movie (2013).
While the buildings are the venue for Wright’s film, she quickly makes it clear: this is not just the story of beautiful buildings.
Going Attractions is a story of adversity, showmanship, craft, and community.
Bold entrepreneurs invested in an entirely new medium. Unfettered architects built grand palaces for all classes. Artists wielding sound and celluloid changed storytelling forever.
Over the course of a century, generations funneled through palace doors with a nourished imagination and greater sense of the world. Alongside an expanded mind, these generations gathered in theatres that anchored neighborhoods and fostered community.
The current state of these structures reflects the state of our history – a history preserved by those who find its stories worth telling.
For cinephiles, architecture buffs, historians, and film students, Going Attractions: The Definitive Story of the Movie Palace is a must watch.
For tickets to the Music Box Theatre screening at 7 pm on Tuesday, November 12, click here.
For more information and screenings in other cities, click here.
Contact Joey Filer at Joey@reelchicago.com or follow him on Twitter