Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Oct 21 2003

In my search for stuff to decorate some of the man…

In my search for stuff to decorate some of the many blank white walls of my apartment, I went to the second-run movie theater up the street last night to look for old movie posters. From the outside you wouldn’t suspect there’s a real theater inside, and I had assumed that it was one of those home theater systems someone set up, but it turns out that the theater’s been there for four decades and has two full-size screens. There used to be just one large theater with a big balcony, but the owners split it in two to make more money. Food stalls line the small lobby, decorated with fake hanging firepot lamps, but the doors to the theater sport the original sequined leather coverings.

The projectionist was named Liu, a skinny man of about four decades as well, with long hair in a style popular in Taiwan in the 80’s. Mr. Liu inherited his position from his father, who was the original projectionist at the theater. He took me upstairs to the attic where he kept stacks of old movie posters because “the owner thinks people might want them someday.”

Mr. Liu used to be in charge of painting the huge banners, assiduously (or sometimes haphazardly, from what I recall) copied from the smaller posters, to cover the front of the theater. Those days are gone now, as theaters realized that it was too much work for too little monetary gain, and now he just paints the Chinese names of the movies on black boards to put out front. He also designs movie coupons.

I looked through the stacks of posters and talked with him about movies, why he thought a certain movie worked or didn’t. He said he was a huge fan of the original Star Wars movies, but not the prequels. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was too long and not well-paced. Snatch was amazing. Tomb Raider suffered from a bad storyline. Audiences are blase about special effects. I didn’t have to think of the Chinese names of the movies as they were right there in front of me, on the posters. He told me that many of the posters and even some of the trailers were collected by a cinema scholar from Hong Kong who lives in Xindian part-time.

I realized that two movies were showing at the moment and asked Mr. Liu who was running the projectors. “My nephew, he’s studying to be a projectionist.” I met the 21-year-old nephew later as we drank Oolong in the lounge next to the lobby. Having some mental issues, the nephew couldn’t find work anywhere else, but he seemed happy enough to be working the projector and selling tickets. I also got to see the projection room and the big electric projector that seemed like an antique but was much newer and nicer than the projector I remember from the army, the one that was lit by a glowing rod of burning coal instead of a light bulb. The handful of patrons began exiting the theater several minutes before the last movie of the day, “Bad Boys 2”, was actually over. Many Taiwanese head for the exit the moment all of the plot points are resolved in a manner that suggests that they are actually afraid of catching even a glimpse of the credits. Only one man, an older portly fellow with thick glasses, stayed to watch the credits, but the nephew shut the machine off before they were done.

I asked Mr. Liu if he was feeling the pressure from bigger, nicer theaters like Warner Village and the Estrogen Mall theaters, but he said no. “They’re not making any money either. It’s the economy, and cable TV. People just watch movies at home, they don’t really care what they’re watching, just that they can.”

posted by Poagao at 2:56 am  

No Comments »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment