Or maybe not

Christopher Nolan’s ‘Tenet’ may be the Empire’s last flick

Fri, 08/28/2020 - 12:15pm
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Gary Pollard’s Empire Theatre is like the movie industry itself.

Every once in a while, someone will bemoan the death of the movies, saying people have moved on to livestreaming or video games. But then a blockbuster comes along, and the obituaries are delayed.

Pollard had thought, earlier in the summer, that the long history of the Empire as a movie theater were over, not only due to the lockdown but also the fact that no one was seemingly going to the movies any more.

Along comes “Tenet,” the latest mindbender from English director Christopher Nolan, known for the Batman Dark Knight series, as well as effects-laden films such as “Inception.”

Pollard has booked the film for the month of September, and he’ll see how it goes.

This is a long way from 1993, when he showed his first film, the Tina Turner biopic, “What’s Love Got To Do With It.” In the 27 years since, Pollard estimates he’s shown about a thousand films.

The last sellout performance was more than a decade ago. A midnight showing of “Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince” sold out in 2009, as did a few subsequent showings, but the 320-seat theater hasn’t been full since.

When Pollard bought the theater in late 1992, it was headed for the wrecking ball.

“Everybody thought it should be demolished,” he said. “Cosmetically, from the outside, it looked very bad. People had been squatting in it, vandalizing it. It was used as a clubhouse.” The apron of the stage was covered in candlewax from the candles that people used to light the darkened theater.

The theater is now a fulltime artisan Emporium, and to make room 110 seats had to be taken out. Pollard said he’ll continue on with that, but will also keep an eye on how the showing of “Tenet” goes.

“We’ll see, but this is n no way a forecaster or predictor of what will happen next summer,” he said, adding that his “plans seem to change weekly.”

One of the reasons for the evolving plans was a small glimmer of hope for the movie industry that happened in recent weeks. A Russell Crowe movie called “Unhinged” was released to theaters and grossed $4 million. While in past years that box office would have been considered an abject failure, it did signal that some people were willing to go back to the movie theater, Pollard said.

For now, he’ll show “Tenet,” and track the movie distribution business over the winter.

If “Tenet” turns out to be the theater’s swan song as a movie house, “I might as well go out with a bang with a big movie,” said Pollard.