Sunday, July 02, 2006

Depends on how you define "soon"


Right now, the Sundance Cinema Center exists mainly as a construction site and some "coming soon" signs at Hilldale Mall.

Madison's civic pride got a nice boost last autumn when it was announced that the first Sundance Cinema Center would be built right here in Madison, at the south end of the Hilldale Mall, and that it would open this fall. Robert Redford (or his press release ghostwriter) elaborated in words of corporate-speak as bland as they were opaque.
"The independent culture of Madison makes it a great environment for the Sundance Cinema concept and we look forward to creating together with the local community, an experience that captures that unique nature," said Sundance Group President Robert Redford. "I couldn't be more pleased that this location will launch this venture."
The aging matinee idol has not lost his power to make fans swoon. Ann Althouse was positively ecstatic.
Thanks for picking us, Bob! Apparently, Madison has a big reputation for loving great films.
I was excited, too, although I wondered exactly why Redford chose Madison to kick off his new venture. Wouldn't he get more buzz going in a big city? And anyhow, didn't Redford have an embarrassing encounter with the Madison film scene in the first, cheesy year of the Wisconsin Film Festival before Mary Carbine arrived to give it some class? Dane101painted a sorry picture.
In its inaugural, pre-Carbine year, it was called the Great Wisconsin Film Festival and was an entirely volunteer effort driven by the state tourism office, whose genius idea was to bring Robert Redford here to receive its first annual Cheesehead award. That masterstroke became a debilitating stroke -- not only was the Redford thing obviously not going to happen, but the state withdrew its support two months before the first curtains were supposed to rise.
So our ham-handed attempt to publicize our fledgling film festival by exploiting Redford's fame makes Madison "a great environment for the Sundance Cinema concept"? Hmmm. But, hey -- a first is a first. We'll take it any way we can get it.

Now it appears that the scheduled opening this fall has been moved back to next spring, leaving a near west side theater gap after the Hilldale Theater closes this fall. Again, Dane 101 --
Originally the Sundance Cinema was scheduled to open in November just in time for the Hilldale Theater’s lease to run out at the end of October. According to the Hilldale Mall’s internal newsletter, construction delays have pushed the opening to early next year. Sundance Cinema President Bert Manzari said he isn’t 100-percent sure of the actual opening. "Once you get into this construction," he told Dane101, "there are delays and you never can anticipate.”
OK, so there's a delay. But we're still first, aren't we? Well, I'm not so sure anymore. We were talking about the Sundance theater over the weekend. T., my best and most reliable source, found this San Francisco Chronicle story from last March about Sundance Cinemas purchasing San Francisco's AMC Kabuki multiplex.
Renovation would begin after the San Francisco International Film Festival ends May 4 with plans to reopen in early fall this year, according to a news release from Sundance Cinemas and AMC Theatres. AMC is selling the Kabuki complex as part of an anti-trust agreement permitting the merger of the AMC and Loews chains.

Sundance earlier announced plans to build a new theater in Madison, Wis., with a planned opening in November this year. Manzari said it will be "a horse race" to see whether the San Francisco is the first Sundance venue to open its doors.
Interesting. In March, Manzari is telling San Franciscans that they are in a "horse race" to see whether their city becomes the first Sundance venue to open. In June, he's telling us that "construction delays" are holding up the Madison opening.

Construction delays, or marketing delays? It looks as if Redford finally found a location where he's more comfortable debuting his new independent theater chain than he was in Madison.

They should never have tried to foist that Cheesehead thing off on him.

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