Thursday, May 30, 2013

Mayors' Big Night at the Theater, dude.

Location: 7301 South Santa Fe Drive #850, Littleton, CO 80120, USA
Mayor Gierlach assisting Kayla Evans
pass out door prizes at the Backdoor Theater.
True story – A few months ago, I met two young women at the Blue Ball during Frozen Dead Guy Days. They were dressed as dead ice princesses with white wings and tutus. I was wearing my top hat mayoral get-up and people were having their picture taken with the mayor. One of the dead ice princesses said, "Like, are you REALLY the Mayor, dude? We don't even know who our mayor is." They were from Littleton, Colorado.

I replied, "Your mayor is Debbie Brinkman. She's a very nice lady. She has a cute little dog named Willie, and she invited all the mayors in the Metro Mayors Caucus to a movie night-out at your new movie theater in Littleton."

They said, "No way, dude."

"Sure, there are times that mayors read 300 page board packets, but tonight, I'm also a judge for the Ice Queen Contest and if you play your cards right ..."

Backdoor Theater:

A month later, I met with Kayla Evans who has been managing Nederland's community Backdoor Theater, and greeting people every weekend for ten years.
The original theater poster for the very
first screening at the Backdoor Theater

Kayla had been on the Community Center Foundation Board before a six-foot snow storm collapsed the roof. There was a guy who thought about running a theater in the old auditorium, but concluded that it wasn't financially viable. That spurred the idea of the non-profit Backdoor Theater. (It used the back door of the building, which later became the front door). They got some help form the Town for equipment and the first movie was a double feature; The Kid, starring Bruce Willis, and the first Mission: Impossible starring Tom Cruise. Back then, they passed out bleacher cushions to alleviate the pain from the original hard wooden seats. The 'new' seats came from a dismantled theater in CU.

Kayla knows every person that walks up to the counter and greets them with a comment or question as they purchase their tickets. "Nice haircut. Did you pay for that? Is your car still in the shop?  How's your mom doing? What... is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?" She has developed her people skills from the Arapaho Ranch Cabins and her involvement in theater. She loves kids and has an uncanny ability for discipline that is fun and focuses on respect for the theater.

Today, I joined her for the traditional raffle of candy before the film. She makes jokes, keeps the kids in the front row in line, reminds people to take the texting out into the hallway.

The Backdoor Theater mission is to provide a safe place for kids (young and old) to experience first run films. (Technically, it's a second run theater, because the big multiplex operations can keep the film longer, so there can be a three week lag time.) Kayla's goal is to consistently provide a venue that you can bring the family without breaking the bank. Admission is $6.00 for Adults, $3.00 for children under twelve. Backdoor Theater retains 45% to 65% of gross box office receipts. The remainder goes to the studios.
The platter film system at the Backdoor Theater

There is only one movie shown at 7:00pm on Friday and Saturday nights. It takes about six hours per week for the projectionist to splice together eight reels of film onto a platter system, break it down afterward, then ship the 50lb package back to the studio. ($50-$70 shipping.)

At our June 6 meeting, the Board of Trustees (BOT) approved a loan to purchase digital upgraded equipment for the theater. For purists, it may not have the exact same look and feel as actual film, but the way films are made today, it is far more practical. With digital, the theater can get films on premier week, and there are other capabilities like streaming media. The mission remains the same, providing kids with something to do and enhancing the community.

What does she do while movie is playing? Sweep the corridor, and on Saturdays clean the popcorn machine. I asked her about the Aurora shooting. She reminds me that her goal is that people feel safe. She knows every person who walks in the theater, but she goes way beyond basic safety. She allows people to feel safe enough to Laugh Out Loud (LOL) without inhibitions, or engage in the film's suspension of disbelief. It's all part of the jokes, comments and making people feel comfortable and welcome.

Mayors' Big Night at the Movies:

Littleton Mayor Debbie Brinkman invited the Metro Mayors to a private screening of the Coen Brothers' 1998 cult classic: "The Big Lebowski". It was at the first Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Colorado.

From my home, the venue is 57 miles away, three thousand feet lower in altitude, and a world apart. My yard regularly has deer, elk, fox, many birds and the occasional bear or moose. When I descend those three thousand feet, I can feel the decrease in wildlife, and the increase of concrete. I travel down Santa Fe Drive, passing Target, Costco, Lowes, Pier 1 Imports and the like. I realize that the RTD Light Rail also follows Santa Fe. With better planning, I could have used my Nederland community-wide EcoPass and exit at the train station right across the street.

Nonetheless, Mayor Brinkman welcomes me to the "Glass Half Full" bar in the theater which has 32 Colorado brews on tap. I order a Double Chocolate Stout, and the bartender mentions, "You know what? You can take that beer into the theater if you want to." (My kind of place)
From left: Littleton Mayor Debbie Brinkman, Glendale Mayor Mike Dunafon, Mayor Hall's daughter, Columbine Valley Mayor Gale Christy, Nederland Mayor Joe Gierlach, Jim Noon, Centennial Mayor Cathy Noon, Sheridan Mayor Dallas Hall, Bow Mar Mayor Rick Pilgrim, Carol Pilgrim, Foxfield Mayor Lisa Jones
I met the Alamo Drafthouse partner and he takes a picture of us mayors in the 'Glass Half Full' bar. I am introduced as the mayor who has a cryogenically frozen dead guy in his town. He went to CU Boulder, so he was all too familiar with Nederland. He begins the mayoral tour of the facility, and mentions, "Don't worry, you can take your drinks into the theater."

The seats are separated and include an attached table, for eating dinner. Each table has a menu, note cards for writing your order, and a place for the card so the attendants can quietly retrieve your order without disturbing your viewing experience. I commend them for having a vegetarian option. The whole place is designed around the experience. In this case, The Big Lebowski is one of their participatory films, so he explains that each seat has underwear to be thrown at a specific moment in the film, glow sticks for the dream sequence, and so forth – participation in the style of the Rocky Horror Picture Show of the 1980's. Quotes are run across the screen for the audience to say them along with the film. We order White Russians.

Metro Mayors at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema for a screening of The Big Lebowski
The biggest rule: No cell phone use in the theater. In fact, a person was kicked out for texting, and called the office. The Alamo Drafthouse Cinema posted the phone message on YouTube, which went viral. Here is a link to the actual answering machine message.

I give a Big Thank You to Mayor Brinkman for inviting us to the The Big Lebowski. I hope the dead ice princesses develop an appreciation for their Mayor as well.

I drove back up the canyon to Ned thinking about these two innovative approaches to the movie theater experience. As The Dude said being forced into a limousine, "Hey, careful, man, there's a beverage here!"

[Here is a Video Valediction] Michael Jackson made recordings for his Bad album at the Caribou Ranch Recording Studio in Nederland, after the Thriller album came out, which was MTV's first world premiere video (directed by John Landis). [What is a Video Valediction?]
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