The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


The Rep

If you're reading this, it's a safe assumption that you love movies. (Why else would you be reading movie reviews, right?) And if you love movies, odds are you love going to the movies. Home theater is great, but nothing really beats the experience of sitting in a cinema and staring up at the big screen. There's a type of magic that can happen when you do this. It can't fully be replicated any other way. The Rep is a remarkable documentary that, at its core, addresses this magic and how fragile it's becoming in modern society.

Directed by Morgan White, the film follows three friends who attempt to open a repertory cinema in Canada: Charlie, the movie geek who's never held a proper job; Alex, the laid-back guy whose passion for film knows no bounds; and Nigel, the uptight “money man” of the group who isn't afraid to deliver some tough love when it's needed. (Nigel has the unenviable task of monitoring the finances, while his partners focus more on the creative stuff.) They take over an old, yet sizable, theater that's buried in the back of a city building, with the goal of programming classics, cult films, and popular favorites. What they find is that, except under special circumstances, people just don't turn out for this kind of thing, despite claiming to value what it stands for. Needing an average attendance of 80 people per day, they find fewer than twenty coming through the doors. Other problems abound, as well. They try programming a special event with former Batman star Adam West in attendance, only to have a communication error put it in jeopardy on the day. Bills don't get paid. Prints are in poor quality. Marketing efforts don't produce results. Very little goes right. Through it all, the guys attempt to persevere for the love of cinema.

The Rep provides a fascinatingly up-close-and-personal look at the challenges of operating a repertory theater. The proprietors/managers of other, similar movie houses appear on camera as interview subjects, each of them detailing how challenging it can be to get people to see a beloved movie on the big screen instead of on a DVD in their living rooms. Even allegedly hardcore cinephiles can be reluctant to support the theater-going experience. Those who run rep theaters do it to preserve a vital communal experience. But, as one subject astutely points out, it may be your dream to open a rep theater, but it's not necessarily everyone else's dream to come to it. Other obstacles covered include the conversion to digital projection, which threatens to put rep theaters out of business. If studios won't make any more film prints, what is to happen to the theaters that are already scrambling to get by and therefore can't afford to upgrade?

Watching the struggles “The Underground Cinema” (as it is known) undergoes is often as suspenseful as any Hollywood thriller you'll see. At the same time, The Rep works as a more personal human story. White's cameras capture all the disagreements, all the despair, and all the effort that Charlie, Nigel, and Alex have in their endeavor. Artistic visions clash, as do the duel components of art and money. You come to like these guys, even when they aren't at their most likeable to each other.

The Rep is like porn for people who cherish movie theaters. It provides you with all the backstage access you could want. More importantly, it serves as a forceful reminder that we should never let the moviegoing experience die. Going to a cinema is not always the easiest – it requires scheduling, travel, parking, etc. - but it is the best way to see a film. If you agree, you need to see The Rep as soon as possible.

( out of four)

Note: The Rep is now available on demand via iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, CinemaNow, Vudu, and other platforms. Check your preferred VOD provider for details.

The Rep is unrated but contains adult language. The running time is 1 hour and 39 minutes.

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