Reel World

Semi-Tough
No word yet if Attorney General Dan Lungren will call out the dogs on the Caviar Buyers Club (aka the Edward J. DeBartolo Corp.), but perhaps he should: There's a lot of evidence the Richie Riches behind the proposed 49ers sports and entertainment complex are dealing with altered states of reality. One detail in particular -- a 30-screen AMC multiplex -- jumped out of the murky goo of artist's renderings and mayoral huzzahs as particularly far-fetched.

As local exhibition veteran Gary Meyer has pointed out in regards to plans for a multiplex adjacent to the proposed Giants stadium at China Basin, movie theaters near ballparks are a proven failure. On game days, filmgoers avoid the area because of its traffic and parking congestion. And since stadiums typically aren't located in urban centers, there aren't enough people to support the multiplex in the off-season.

Meyer's initial response to the 49ers' screen play was a loud chuckle. "There's not enough population at Hunters Point, basically," he said. But then he heard about Ontario Mills, a successful megamall with factory and department store outlets and an AMC 30-plex that opened last November 40 miles east of L.A. There's not a stadium involved, but the site has reportedly worked as a consumer destination point despite a remote location. The developer, Mills Corp., has agreed in principle to quarterback the retail-entertainment portion of the 49ers complex, so Meyer has suspended his skepticism. "If you build the right center," he mused, "then maybe it can work."

Mills Marketing Director Susan Goyette reports that AMC is also a tenant of the Grapevine Mills mall, smack between Dallas and Fort Worth. "We're looking for a certain population within a 30-mile drive," she says. Southern Californians and Texans may not hesitate to hop on a freeway for 45 minutes, but aren't Northern Californians different? "The Peninsula is more of a car culture than San Francisco," Meyer said. "The question is, will people in the city get in their cars to go to this complex?" Goyette emphasizes, "The plans are still very, very conceptual. We cannot make any definitive plans or announcements until we know what happens in June."

Short Cuts
Elsewhere on the travesty beat, the gutless wonders at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting gave $1 million to embalmer extraordinaire Ken Burns (The Civil War, Baseball) for an eight-part, 12-hour series on jazz. Why didn't they call East Bay filmmaker Les Blank, whose ethnomusicological documentaries such as Sworn to the Drum (which screened last Wednesday, Feb. 12, at the UC Theater with Blank's The Maestro: King of the Cowboy Artists) are the liveliest celebrations imaginable of passion, ritual, and culture? ... Word is that Berkeley's all-Indian Bombay Cinema is shuttered, and, indeed, the phone is disconnected. That leaves the Naz in Fremont and the Eros in San Jose for Hindi-speaking film fans.

By Michael Fox
foxonfilm@aol.com

 
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