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Screening "CITIZEN KANE" at its original premiere location--the El Capitan?


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In case TCM is unaware, CITIZEN KANE had its _original_ West Coast movie premiere at the nearby *El Capitan Theatre* (then named the Paramount). Though Disney might not be willing to make its theatre available for the entire run of the festival (because it operates as a first run movie theatre for its own new movie releases), when I spoke last year to that theatre's managing director Ed Collins, he said that if TCM wanted to use the theatre for a one time screening for a compelling reason (such as screening CITIZEN KANE which premiered there) that the Walt Disney Company might take such a request under serious consideration--so long it did not involve a prime-time weekend evening time period. For TCM festival goers, the El Capitan is a historic theatre which Disney painstakingly restored in 1991 including the reinstallation of a vintage theatre pipe organ (supposedly from the former San Franciso Fox Theatre which was demolished in the early 1960s).

 

If it is not included as any part of the festival, I urge you to ask permission to at least take a sneak peak of its interior between movie showings (or buy a movie ticket, but just check out its lavish interior which is way more impressive that the current interior condition of the historic Grauman's Chinese Theatre which for whatever reason is kept too underlit to show off its wonderful architecture. More info on the El Capitan can be found online at

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fox_Theatre_(San_Francisco,_California)

 

FYI to festival goers--I believe that the Chinese Theatre is jointly operated by Warner Brothers and Paramount Pictures as a regular and profitable first run movie theatre and that is presumably a key reason why TCM is able to have such wonderful access to it (and its adjacent multiplex) since TCM is also run by Time/Warner (who also controls Warner Brothers) and the Egyptian Theatre is run by the non-profit American Cinematheque, but allows occasional "four wall" rentals by studios and private entities such as TCM.

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Hi, jon,

 

Yes, they are aware. I pitched that idea to the powers that be at TCM several months ago, but I think it's a no go. It would be great, and so fitting, but since theatres have to be lined up so far in advance for a festival like this, it would probably be impossible to leave it to see if the El Capitan has a hit or not and is available just then, you know?

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Glad we were of like minds. I had composed a detailed letter to Robert Osborne--even though he is not in charge of programming--I at least had a slight connection with him having also worked for the Hollywood Reporter in the years he did, but unfortunately had another TCM staffer forward that e-mail around the turn of the year, but suspect he never received it or it got lumped in with a lot of heavy viewer fan mail. I should have probably copied Mr. Tabash. But in any case, in that letter were a few recommendations including that one that I recently had a publicist friend re-email to him--though I agree with you that at this point it may be water under the bridge.

 

From that early conversation I had with the theatre's managing director, I did get the impression, however, that for example if TCM wanted to use the El Capitan for one individual screening during non-primetime weekend or weeknight hours, that Disney still could be accommodating--particularly if there is a strong historical reason to propose such a screening (which Mr. Collins agreed that since "Citizen Kane" originally premiered there that they would certainly give such a request serious consideration).

 

My attitude is that it never hurts for TCM to ask and since TCM is already running both FANTASIA and PARENT TRAP, they obviously have a good rapport to have Disney's permission and cooperation to screen such titles.

 

Even though the El Capitan under its management by the Walt Disney Company has almost exclusively run Disney, Touchstone or Hollywood Pictures film titles, over the years they have occasionally allowed non-Disney fare to be shown on special occasions. For example, they actually ran the (Time Warner owned) MGM roadshow musical "Gigi" on its big screen in multi-track stereo for a one week engagement and even ran a Hitchcock title there for a special engagement (I believe it may have been a restored print of "Rebecca"), but in any case, I hope someone on the festival staff reads this post and helps at least investigate this option by making a phone call to Ed Collins at the El Capitan (he was Dick Cook's special projects person in past years and is well connected with everyone in distribution at the Disney Company. You never know, Disney could cooperate for a ONE TIME screening. I don't think it should be assumed 100% that it is a lost cause. But of course, I am relating to my own past special film programming experience where I was used to always getting "nos" from studios regarding even classic film availability, but by being politely tenacious I developing a great track record of eventually turning most "nos" into "yeses"--and I did not have the reputation and clout that the wonderful TCM people have.

 

JONO

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This afternoon I spoke to Ed Collins, the managing director of the El Capitan (formerly Dick Cook's right arm at Disney) and he said he and Disney would MOVE MOUNTAINS to celebrate CITIZEN KANE's 70th Anniversary at the El Capitan and despite the fact they will be in their second weekend of a new Disney first run nature film, that to DIGITALLY screen "CITIZEN KANE" that they CAN definitely make it happen if someone in charge of the festival at TCM can get in touch with them ASAP. It is NOT TOO LATE.

 

He said that in addition "CITIZEN KANE" actually premiered at the El Capitan on May 9 so that the timing of the TCM festival would be perfect. He said for an occasion as important as "KANE's" 70th Anniversary that he is fairly certain the Studio would even allow such a one-time screening to happen in a prime weekend evening timeslot during the festival.

 

He also mentioned that in addition to this milestone film's 70th anniversary, that it is also the El Capitan's 85th anniversary and the 20th anniversary of restoring and taking over the operation of this landmark movie palace. I left word this evening with Mr. Charles Tabash's office at TCM and told him I would be thrilled to put TCM in touch with Mr. Collins.

 

I hope this can happen. *Can anyone who reads this blog who is personally acquainted with Robert Osborne please also make him aware of this information as well as Disney's interest in making this become a reality?* THANK YOU!!!

 

JONO

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*"This afternoon I spoke to Ed Collins, the managing director of the El Capitan (formerly Dick Cook's right arm at Disney) and he said he and Disney would MOVE MOUNTAINS to celebrate CITIZEN KANE's 70th Anniversary at the El Capitan and despite the fact they will be in their second weekend of a new Disney first run nature film, that to DIGITALLY screen "CITIZEN KANE" that they CAN definitely make it happen if someone in charge of the festival at TCM can get in touch with them ASAP."* - JONO

 

Wow! That is quite a lot effort, Jono. How wonderful if it could come off.

 

Last night, I went to the El Capitan website to see what film was playing during the Film Festival and learned, as you hinted, that it is a new DisneyNature film titled *African Cats*. I don't know if it is an "exclusive" engagement.

 

Rest assured, the Festival Staff will read your post here and pass it along to the persons in charge. And you also left a message with right person at TCM.

 

I look forward to hearing all this turns out.

 

Kyle In Hollywood

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Thanks to both companies' appreciation of film history and dedication to classic movie fans, I was informed late yesterday that TCM has indeed recontacted Disney about potentially using the El Capitan for their one-time special 70th anniversary screening of CITIZEN KANE. They were already aware that KANE had premiered there, but from previous contact with Disney, they had believed the theatre was not available due to its regularly scheduled showings of first-run Disney, Touchstone and Hollywood Pictures movies needing to play there.

 

For those FESTIVALGOERS from outside of Los Angeles who have never seen the El Capitan that the Walt Disney Company lavishly restored in the late 1980's please make sure to visit the following [EL CAPITAN RECENT THEATRE PHOTO WEBLINK|http://cinemasightlines.com/cinemas_cinemaviews7.php]

 

However, this does not necessarily mean that the movie which AFI lists as the "#1 movie of all time" will still show at the El Capitan and *it may be helpful for TCM staffers to see in writing that other festivalgoers would appreciate seeing this milestone film in the very same venue where it had its controversial West Coast premiere on May 9, 1941.*

 

THEREFORE, _IF YOU FEEL IT WOULD ENHANCE THE EXPERIENCE OF SEEING THE 70TH ANNIVERSARY SCREENING OF THE RESTORED "CITIZEN KANE" IN THE SAME HOLLYWOOD THEATRE WHERE IT PREMIERED THEN PLEASE ADD YOUR VOICE OF SUPPORT TO THIS BLOG CATEGORY_SO THE TCM STAFF MAY BE FURTHER ENCOURAGED TO MAKE SUCH LAST MINUTE ARRANGEMENTS--THANK YOU!!!

 

The original El Capitan premiere was deemed controversial because apparently, according to various historical accounts one can read on the internet and in books, the theatre had received threats from showing the film from both William Randolph Hearst and his local L.A. newspaper The Herald Examiner--that they would receive retaliation for hosting this event--considered to be a veiled retelling of Hearst's long time affair with actress Marion Davies.

 

*When Orson Welles was unable to locate any other local theatre owner willing to risk screening Citizen Kane, he eventually turned to owner of the independent El Capitan*, and in 1941, Citizen Kane indeed had its world premiere there. The theater then closed for nearly an entire year, supposedly because they had difficulty booking subsequent movies there (likely due to Hearst's influence--though the venue also underwent a major renovation and was modernized during that time period). Similarly, some Hollywood luminaries reputedly avoided the highly publicized event for the same reason. However, from an L.A. Times article on the day after the premiere, they reported that Mickey Rooney (who will be featured in a TCM festival tribute), Ronald Reagan and Bob Hope still boldly opted to attend the event as well as the film's stars John Barrymore, Dolores Del Rio, Orson Welles and Dorothy Comingore.

 

The Times article described a nostalgic feeling of ?the old days? of Hollywood amid spot lights which pierced the sky in front of where thousands of fans gathered--further saying, the glitz and glamour seemed to add to Welles?s ego as he walks down the red carpet, his entrance timed. The crowds made even more noise for Barrymore as he walked into the theater. When stopped for questioning on the red carpet, Welles made only one remark ? about his gratefulness to George Schaefer, the president of RIO-Radio Pictures. ?If it had not been for George J. Schaefer there would not be a Citizen Kane.? Outside the theater, the star-struck crowd for the premiere was so large that RKO had to **** temporary bleachers. This article clearly demonstrated that despite Hearst?s best efforts to suppress the film?s release, those attempts only furthered to publicize the movie and create even more hysteria and frenzy at the movie's memorable premiere.

 

CHALLENGES WITH WARNER BROTHERS RESTORING CITIZEN KANE:

 

RKO?s only original camera negatives had been burned in a 1980 vault fire and as a result had also hampered past restoration efforts. Orson Welles was the recipient of the actual production negatives and his copy was also unfortunately lost in a fiery accident in the 1970s. Therefore, the film's 1991 VHS release had featured the best known copy available at that time which was owned by New York?s Museum of Modern Art, however this print had dirt and scratches on it, among other defects. After years of patient and careful searching, Warner Brothers recently discovered a new nitrate fine-grain print in a European archive with much improved picture and sound. The improved audio quality is very important because the original score had a very high dynamic range. This version has been digitized and was apparently used in the latest restored print that TCM plans to screen at this year's festival. I am sure some of the above information will be mentioned by Robert Osborne before the screening.

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I really hope it happens! After attending last year, I thought it would be great if TCM could work out something with Disney to have some screenings at the El Capitan. Showing Citizen Kane there would be perfect! (Of course, so would Fantasia...)

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Is Peter Bogdanovich returning as presenter this year? If so, perhaps he and Robert O could introduce *Kane* together and talk about the film. I can't imagine TCM presenting the film on the big screen (whatever the venue) without Bogdanovich being there.

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> {quote:title=jon90027 wrote:}{quote}

> *it may be helpful for TCM staffers to see in writing that other festivalgoers would appreciate seeing this milestone film in the very same venue where it had its controversial West Coast premiere on May 9, 1941.*

 

Jon, I'm in. I saw Alice in Wonderland there last year a night or two before the festival. Although the film was okay, the experience Disney creates is outstanding. If memory serves me, it's a smaller venue than either the Egyptian or Chinese, so I'm guessing it will be an arrive early event.

 

All your work on this is impressive. Maybe Glenn can get your help putting together a studio tour that's specifically geared towards the interests of us classic film "geeks"? Thanks to you, and thanks to the people at TCM for listening to your fans. We are noticing!

 

David in Seattle

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Thanks for your appreciation and support of this screening venue idea. Both the Chinese and El Capitan are about the same size--1,100 seats--though the El Capitan has a sizeable balcony while the Chinese only has a very small upstairs mini-balcony seating area that is used for VIPs--which supposedly was originally intended for major Hollywood stars, studio heads, friends of Sid Grauman, etc.

 

The Egyptian with a small balcony holds a little more than half the Chinese & Egyptian--650 seats.

 

By the way, forgive my inaccuracy when referring to RKO's Citizen Kane master film elements being destroyed in 1980, but that had been noted in another, usually reliable film buff website (not Wikipedia!) and I got that incorrect info from there. Goes to show you can't believe everything you read or see quoted on the internet. But I since saw another reference that did say the original master film neg was destroyed in the 50s.

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Wow, I dream of seeing my all time favorite film on the big screen. I have a friend that has a personal movie house in his garage and we played it there. His sound system is out of this world. I wish they would bring back vingtage films. Most of the new movies are trash.

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  • 3 weeks later...

The disappointing news is that CK will NOT be screening at the El Capitan. TCM graciously did explore the last minute feasibility with Disney and Disney was seriously considering the festival's request--well aware of the historic significance of CK having originally premiered there (May 9, 1941), but unofficially--my understanding is that due to the fact Disney's latest nature movie "African Cats" will be playing there for only its second weekend (with LIVE animal show preceding each screening) the cost of using the theatre was likely and unfortunately too cost prohibitive for TCM to use.

 

The good news is that at least CK will be playing in the festival's best and most prestigious venue--Grauman's Chinese Theatre. I just wish it could have been scheduled in a prime time slot--versus the afternoon slot that it got relegated to--but with so many other good films also being shown and that fact that CK has been previously seen a lot more often than many other festival titles--it is understandable that had a lot to do with when it got scheduled in the festival roster.

 

In any case, to those of you who have never seen the El Capitan (including TCM staffers), in my opinion it has the most over-the-top movie screening presentation of any current day, historic Hollywood movie palace and I encourage you to find a way to see its theatrically illuminated auditorium, vintage pipe organ (played before every show) and pre-movie showing "lavish" curtain show while you are in Hollywood attending the TCM festival.

 

Though Grauman's Chinese Theatre is certainly the most famous, it has never been fully restored and its operators have never put the time nor energy to enhance its main auditorium's beautiful architectural features. At last year's festival, it was extremely underlit and cavernous. I have patronized this theatre for decades and remember in decades past that they used to keep every soffit and crevace backlit with breathtaking, atmospheric colored light bulbs. Unfortunately, I do not think the current management really values the architecture all that much since they primarily seem to keep its exterior facade and lobby areas lit (to encourage concession sales). It wouldn't take all that much money or resources to bolster its interior lighting, but I just think its current management has no awareness of how it should or previously looked in years passed. Maybe one of these days someone connected with the operation of the theatre who cares will improve upon this since Grauman's Chinese--at least on the West Coast--is the most historically significant Hollywood movie theatre in the entire world--JONO

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