Corrections or additions?
This article by Jack Florek was prepared for the May 30, 2001
edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Back in Bloom: The Garden Theater
In the fashion world, what’s old eventually becomes
new. But for old movie theaters, it may take a million dollar
The Garden Theater on Nassau Street in Princeton reopens Friday, June
1, as a spiffy new state-of-the-art movie house with two types of
digital sound, a top projection system, and stadium seating. Other
improvements include a new lobby, handicap-accessible restrooms, and
acoustic paneling to prevent sound bleeding between the two theaters.
Built in 1919 for Princeton University’s Triangle Club and converted
into a movie theater in the late 1920s, the Garden was closed last
August for renovations with a projected budget of $600,000, and an
optimistic estimate of 12 to 16 dark weeks. Now, 10 months later,
and at a cost doubling the original budget, the Garden is just about
ready to open with a flourish during Princeton’s Reunions weekend.
Louise Stephens, of Theater Management Corporation in Manhattan, the
company that leases and operates the Garden from and for Princeton
University, plans on continuing the theater’s eight-year policy of
offering one commercial and one art film at any given time.
"It’s a formula that has worked well in the past," says
"and I think I’m probably going to stick with it." But by
"commercial," Stephens does not mean your typical multiplex
blockbuster that can be seen on thousands of big screens. "We
will not be playing `Star Wars’ or anything like that," she
"I think what we’re talking about is an upscale wide-release film
— `American Beauty’ would be a good example."
But art film or commercial film, how long a particular title will
play at the Garden will be determined by the marketplace. "Any
movie theater, whether it has two screens or 20 screens, tries to
hold pictures as long as possible to satisfy the public’s
she says. "It all depends on how well the movies do."
The Garden opens with the brand-new, glitzy Nicole Kidman and Ewan
MacGregor romance, "Moulin Rouge," together with "George
Washington," a sensitively rendered, impressionistic independent
film by David Gordon Green.
"George Washington" is a portrait of how a group of young
children deal with the tragic death of one of their group during an
innocent game at an abandoned amusement park. And it is reminiscent
of Terrence Malick’s classic film "Days of Heaven" in both
style and feel.
But its gentle pacing, lush photography, and poetic matter-of-factness
of "George Washington" make it much more than its simple story
would suggest. Set in an industrial area in the South, and shot in
35mm widescreen, this film is gorgeous to look at. Green delicately
dabs his story in with soft tones of life made up of odd moments that
at first seem random, but have a cumulative effect that allows the
ambiance of the film’s world to settle itself onto the viewer.
After watching it, one doesn’t feel merely entertained, but deeply
touched, getting the distinct impression of having lived through
essential. "George Washington" is simply a very beautiful
film. Best of all, this is David Gordon Green’s first feature-length
film, so we may be seeing the budding of a major new talent.
Another Garden Theater plus for art film enthusiasts is Stephens’
mention that she’ll remain flexible on her two screen commercial
film policy. "Throughout the summer there are a lot of wonderful
art movies opening, so we may have two art movies playing
Yes, ticket prices at the Garden have risen from $6.50 to $8 for
and from $4 to $5 for all matinee shows. But for Princeton area film
lovers, who says a million dollars can’t buy happiness?
— Jack Florek
609-683-7595. Opening features are "George Washington," a
low-budget independent, and "Moulin Rouge," a Cannes Film
Festival entry starring Nicole Kidman and Ewan MacGregor. $8 adults;
$5 seniors & children; and $5 for all shows before 6 p.m. Call theater
for times. Friday, June 1.
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