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

face-lift.

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

Stephens,

"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

continues.

"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

interest,"

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

something

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/art

film policy. "Throughout the summer there are a lot of wonderful

art movies opening, so we may have two art movies playing

together,"

she says.

Yes, ticket prices at the Garden have risen from $6.50 to $8 for

adults,

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

Re-Opening Day, Garden Theaters , 160 Nassau Street,

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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