The evolution of digital cinema has led megaplexes to reinvest in the repertory business. There's that one screen in the Cineplex Yonge and Dundas that's dedicated to revivals and specialty programming year-round, and there's the chain's annual Great Digital Film Festival, the 2014 edition of which starts up in theatres across Canada today (January 31).
Every year, Cineplex programs a list of popular movies which have been revisited in high-definition masters by their respective distributors, and pitches them to an audience that almost certainly has bought or rented said movies on Blu-ray.
Look at today's lineup: Akira at 2 pm, Ghost In The Shell at 4:40 pm, Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure at 7:15 pm, the original Planet Of The Apes at 9:20 pm and a midnight show of Monty Python And The Holy Grail. If you love these movies, you surely own at least one of their special-edition discs. But have you seen them on a very large screen, surrounded by other people? Probably not recently, right?
There are theme days: "Superhero Saturday" (February 1) offers Richard Donner's Superman at 11 am, Sam Raimi's Spider-Man at 1:45 pm, Jon Favreau's Iron Man at 4:15 pm, Joss Whedon's The Avengers at 6:50 pm, Tim Burton's Batman at 9:35 pm and Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight at midnight.
And "Retro Sci-Fi Sunday" (February 2) lines up the original theatrical release of Battlestar Galactica at 12:30 pm, followed by Tron at 3 pm, the second showing of Planet Of The Apes at 5:10 pm, Flash Gordon at 7:30 pm and Logan's Run at 10 pm.
On Monday (February 3), things get downright esoteric with an afternoon Terry Gilliam double-bill: Brazil screens at 12 pm, with The Fisher King following at 2:45 pm. That evening, Guy Ritchie gets his kick at the can with Lock, Stock & 2 Smoking Barrels at 7 pm and Snatch at 9:45 pm.
There's a double bill of James Bond movies on Tuesday (February 4), but they're not the usual choices: rather than another night of From Russia With Love and Goldfinger, we get On Her Majesty's Secret Service at 7 pm and Thunderball at 9:50 pm. Not bad, right? And Wednesday (February 5) and Thursday (February 6) are given over to repeat showings of titles from earlier in the festival.
Tickets for each screening are just $6.00; the Cineplex website has an option that lets you buy multiple tickets for reduced rates, so that if you buy five or more tickets for the festival they'll be just $5.25 apiece. Hell, you'll pay more for your popcorn.
If you'd rather see something totally new, the arrival of February means Doc Soup is presenting another Canadian premiere at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema. This month, it's If You Build It, screening Wednesday and Thursday night with director Patrick Creadon in attendance.
If You Build It is the story of what happened when two idealistic young Californians, Matthew Miller and Emily Pilloton, arrived in tiny Windsor, North Carolina - a town dealing with a level of economic stagnation so profound that the opening of a Domino's Pizza franchise is unironically heralded as a boon to the employment situation - with a plan to reinvent a stagnant high school.
With the help of an inspiring slogan ("Design. Build. Transform.") and their own conviction, Miller and Pilloton give the skeptical students new purpose, putting them to work on a series of construction projects designed to teach them real-world skills and instill a sense of personal pride.
The whimsical-hopeful musical score and the self-seriousness with which his subjects are allowed to explain their larger social goals show us where Creadon's sympathies lie - he's just trying to make a feel-good movie about crusaders who shake up a small town with the force of their creativity! - but things did not go as smoothly as Miller and Pilloton had hoped, and watching events turn slowly against the couple gives If You Build It a fatalistic undercurrent that it can't quite process.
Creadon is desperately trying to make an upbeat movie with a happy ending, but reality won't allow it; the conflict of the movie is mirrored by the conflict the movie is documenting, which makes for a really compelling viewing experience. Whether or not it was planned that way is almost irrelevant.