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Smoothie at the Movies: Cinematic venue snapshots

Treat yourself right and buy the extra-large popcorn, a bucket of soda and don’t forget the Sno-Caps: It’s time to go to the movies.

It has been a strong year for films, and, as we turn in to the final months, it looks like there is going to be an equally strong finish. New Orleans is blessed with some very good options for viewing big-name movies. If you keep a sharp eye out, you can also find places that show some of the best under-the-radar indie films. And, on those special occasions when a night under the stars is more the thing to do, you can even find a movie playing in the great outdoors.

To help make your choices easier, here's a short synopsis of theaters in the New Orleans area, with a flick pick of current showings at each. A snapshot of sorts, so you can find the right theater for your cinematic tastes.

The Prytania

The last remaining gem from a long history of single-screen theaters in the city, the Prytania has been written about in several classic novels. It seems as if, whenever any character in a book set in New Orleans decides to go see a movie, he or she ends up at the Prytania (including, most notably, Ignatius J. Reilly). The Uptown theater still maintains a classic look after all these years, with its large lower level and balcony seating options. With only the one screen, they do try to actively keep the films moving from week to week. (I mean, even if you loved "The Help," how many times in a month could you go see it?)

A classic movie series that runs during the weekends and on Wednesdays at 10 am (I know it’s early, but if you want to see "Casablanca" on the big screen it’s worth the hangover on a Sunday morning), as well as a weekend midnight series will give you the opportunity to see movies that you may never have been able to see on a big screen before. They just played "Ghostbusters" there this past weekend. The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man in all his glory -- what could be better?

For This Week:

This week The Prytania is showing "Twelve Years a Slave," the early buzzed-about Oscar contender from Steve McQueen. Also, this Sunday, as part of another series, the original "Alien" film in its original 1979 35mm reel will be aired. It’ll be fun to see Ripley show who’s the real boss of space in its original format.

The Zeitgeist

The alternative to alternative. If you’re looking for indie films, they’re not going to get any indier than at the Zeitgeist. With its open-space warehouse feel and its basic set-up of chairs and old coaches, the art house has a very DIY feel to it, which is fitting for the type of films that tend to run there. At times the films walk a line between important subject matter versus good filmmaking (a great debate for another time), but when the Zeitgeist is on point it is a lovely experience. It's one of the few New Orleans places you can count on to play the absolute bizarre and also the quite touching films that the big-time Hollywood production companies let fall through the cracks. At its best, the Zeitgeist is capable of showing the movies that no one else can or will show in town.

 For This Week:

In a perfect example of what The Zeitgeist is capable of, it is playing two films throughout the day that may be worth your time. One is "Short Term 12," an indie film with so much heart and great acting that I have no idea why it is not playing at every theater in the world (it may well be my favorite film of the year so far). The other, "Escape From Tomorrow," is a horror film shot completely renegade style in Disney World and Disney Land; I have no idea how it got made at all, let alone put up on a screen for your wild and weird enjoyment. The perfect double header of what really defines independent filmmaking.


Chalmette Theater

Some of my fondest memories as a child occured when my grandfather took me to see a movie at his local theater. Just the two of us, watching a movie and sharing a box of candy. This is the feeling I get when I watch a movie at Chalmette. Tucked away in a shopping center east of the city, it's a great place to experience a film. Boasting multiple screens, the venue can handle the big hits, while also making an effort to  have an independent movie play weekly (this is where I first saw "Short Term 12"). There seems to be a diligent effort to show local movies that wouldn’t get a chance to be seen in the city otherwise. Chalmette has a homey feel to it that makes watching any film here a treat.

 For This Week:

Since I’ve gone full nostalgia with my grandfather, why not head out to Chalmette and catch "Bad Grandpa,", the most insane movie that the Jackass crew has put out, ever? As much fun as it is to see Johnny Knoxville get himself into serious trouble, it is mind blowing to try to imagine how he got out of it once the camera stopped running.

AMCs

There are moments when nothing can beat the experience of going to the multiplex. The biggest of screens, the loudest of sounds -- there are movies that just cannot be seen any other way. Watch "Avatar" on television and you realize it will never be as good as it was on Imax 3D. There are three AMC Palaces within 10 miles of the city, and all have their charms (my favorite is the Elmwood Palace, easy to get to by the Earhart Express Way and located near plenty of dining options.) If you are in the mood for the full-blown epic movie experience, this is your place.

 For this Week:

Though "Ender’s Game" has just taken over the Imax 3D Experience in all the Palaces, don’t let "Gravity" leave the theaters without seeing it in 3D. This thrill ride of a movie is one of the best roller coasters ever to be put on screen. It’s one automated chair away from being a 91-minute-long amusement park ride at Universal Studios.

Canal Place

The shiniest of all the local theaters, the Theaters at Canal Place boasts its position as the newest of the area's movie-going experiences. Along with multiple screens comes the option to order food and drinks from the comfort of your own fancy leather seats. While Canal Place normally shows major releases, it also will play a hard-to-find movie. Which may help justify the higher prices here ($12-$15 a ticket versus other theaters $8-$10).

 For This Week:

The Theaters at Canal Place have been running a classic movie series every Thursday night. Last Week it was "Interview with the Vampire"; this week, it's "Dawn of the Dead." So if you haven’t quenched your thirst for ghost and goblins just yet (and if you live down here, can you ever?), this is a nice step back into the Romero zombie time machine.

Go Outside! See A Movie!

Now that the constant death of summer heat has finally passed, it’s a great time of year to take in an outdoor screening. The New Orleans Film Society has a running series that features fun classic movies throughout the city, showing off some lovely parts of town for film fans. Remember to pack a blanket and some snacks, because what’s better then watching a movie under the stars?

 For This Week:

The Film Society is headed back to the Sculpture Garden at NOMA this Friday for what can only be an amazing screening of "The Muppet Movie." Take the kids (inner child or otherwise) and make sure to arrive early for square dancing and music by the Swamp Lilies (5-7 p.m.), and rediscover how wonderful it can be to live in a world of Muppets.

 

Matt ‘Smoothie’ Sargeant is a nolavie film writer. Contact him at mjsargeant83@gmail.com.