Reel World

David Latham; closing of the St. Francis I & II

Without You I'm NothingA puzzling full-page ad beginning "Dear Helen Hunt" appeared in Daily Variety in late October. "Congratulations on a bravo performance in Pay It Forward," it read. "You brought all of Arlene's wit, warmth, love and vulnerabilities to the screen. Watching you perform and perfect the craft of acting is pure heaven. Your Absolutely Positively #1 Fan, David Latham." A San Francisco PO box was listed at the bottom of the page. So who is David Latham? Hunt's acting coach? The screenwriter of Pay It Forward? (That would explain his omission of Hunt's performance in Dr. T & the Women.) Or the screenwriter of what he hopes will be her next role? (That would explain the PO box.) Guess again.

"I'm a very, very big fan," says Latham, an aspiring actor who temps at an S.F. insurance brokerage firm. He's such a big fan, in fact, that he flew to New York to catch Hunt's performance in Twelfth Night and saw As Good as It Gets 25 times -- before it came out on video. (When we spoke, Latham had already seen Pay It Forward 10 times and Dr. T four.) He has posters of all of Hunt's movies, an extensive photo collection, and every Mad About You episode on tape. Though he's clearly obsessed, he's not sinister: If Latham saw her in a restaurant, he claims, he wouldn't interrupt her meal. "She guards her privacy," he points out. "I don't feel a need -- or have a right -- to know everything about her."

Latham hasn't received any response to the ad (nor to the small birthday greeting he placed in Variety last year) but he's not disappointed. "If there's a chance she saw it, I'd get a charge out of that. ... But I went into it with no expectations." Luckily, he has Hunt's roles in two upcoming holiday releases (with Mel Gibson and Tom Hanks) and in the next Woody Allen movie to look forward to.

Shock CorridorThe Chronicle and Gavin Newsom won't wring their hands over this like they did over the sale of the Coronet movie house, but the recent closing of the St. Francis I & II is a drag -- even if you have never set foot inside the Market Street theater. The demise of second-run houses (with the exceptions of the Four Star, Balboa, and Red Vic) -- mostly due to home video -- may be inevitable, but that doesn't mean it's progress. ... As predicted here back on Aug. 23, the Goldman Institute on Aging and United Artists are working out the details to extend the Coronet's lease for another six months, through July 2001. ... At the last minute, the humanitarians at Blockbuster Video withdrew their appeal for an outlet at Polk and Sacramento. They haven't ruled out applying for a conditional-use permit, however. Aw, just curl up and blow away, willya?

Living in OblivionThe redoubtable Carl Franklin shoots High Crimes for two weeks here right after Thanksgiving. Morgan Freeman and Ashley Judd light up the marquee (and various trendy eateries). If you can't wait that long for star sightings, roll up to Sonoma County, where Bruce Willis just began a month of filming Bandits. Or keep an eye peeled for TV gumshoe Don Johnson, who's donned the ocher jacket for another season of Nash Bridges.

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