Sunday, January 6, 2013

Blue Hawaii (1961)

WHO: Happy 78th birthday to Elvis Presley (in two days, to be precise). He'll surely be celebrating somewhere...

WHAT: Blue Hawaii was the biggest box office success of his motion picture career. I've never seen any of his movies though- probably should remedy that someday.

WHERE/WHEN: 6PM at the New Parkway, just a short walk from the 19th Street BART station in Oakland. 

WHY: Wait, back up. The New Parkway: what's that?  For those of you who remember the original Parkway which closed nearly four years ago, it still stands vacant near Lake Merritt, which is a shame. But a new group of community-minded Oaklanders have been able to borrow that cinema's name and some of the essentials of its 1997-2009 business model (couches, pizza, beer, and second-run movies) and recreate it in a former auto shop in the Uptown neighborhood, while adding some new flavors to the literal and figurative menu. The doors opened to the public a couple weeks ago after a few delays, and the opening weekend was made rockier by a picket by the local projectionists union and its supporters, which appears to have been resolved fairly quickly. I decided to check the place out myself Thursday night for my second viewing of Holy Motorsand was for the most part pretty impressed with the operation, although I did not order food or drink on this visit so I can't really comment on that aspect of the experience. Anyway, Blue Hawaii (a replacement for a previously-scheduled Elvis picture Viva Las Vegaskicks off the 2013 Thrillville schedule of cult movies programmed by one holdover from the previous Parkway staff: Will "The Thrill" Viharo. Other special programs the venue is exploring include a documentary night, a grindhouse night, and Queer Sunday Matinee that today includes It Gets Messy In Here

HOW: The one disappointment (though in no way a surprise) about the New Parkway is that its screenings are digital-only. Holy Motors was shot digitally and looked pretty good digitally-projected, although I did detect a very slight keystoning issue (that my companion, a filmmaker, did not notice until I pointed it out). Blue Hawaii was shot on film of course, so it's more of a disappointment that it'll be projected via DVD. If you know of a place showing Elvis movies on 35mm, much less one where you can order sangria and quesadillas to consume during the show, let me know.


  1. Brian:Times have changed, when I was working for a film distributor in New York City that had several of the Presleys, back in the 1980s, they said that the only audience for these mostly not very good movies was blue-haired ladies in Florida.
    The two most interesting Elvises I've seen are King Creole (Curtiz) and Flaming Star (Siegel) though Jailhouse Rock(Thorpe) has been championed by Scorsese and Viva Las Vegas(Sidney) by my Film On Film colleague Brecht Andersch

  2. I know Will Viharo has argued for King Creole to be considered a film noir as much as it is an Elvis movie. And the New Parkway noted that they expect to show Viva Las Vegas sometimes this summer, since it was (for reasons I cannot begin to guess at) unavailable to be shown this evening.

    I have a photograph somewhere in my files of Elvis on the set of G.I. Blues. He's visiting with the (still-reigning) King and Queen of Thailand, and when I was living there 13 years ago it was a very common photo to see at markets, or framed in places of business.

  3. VIVA will show in the summer. Some titles were announced from distributors who had not yet approved the application to do business. They are very careful to do background checks and demand personal guarantees before working with new theaters

    Since distributors of new films have announced that they will cease to release movies on celluloid in 2013 and even many of the classics divisions no longer rent 35mm or 16mm prints, it did not make sense fr the New Parkway to install 35mm which would require large booths with venting. This would have been costly and resulted in a reduction of seats. Virtually all independent films, especially the kinds of documentaries the New Parkway shows a lot of, are shot on digital.

    I bemoan the loss of film but won't miss the splices, missing dialogue and scratches that come when a nice print is shown on a dirty projector. Digital is as clean as the original it was taken from and in the case of restorations, usually even better. We may not like it but we must live with it.

    Luckily there will continue to be venues that show 35mm: PFA,Paramount,Roxie,Stanford, Castro, Rafael. The last two also show digital already. And the Balboa and Vogue will eventually go digital but will keep their 35mm projectors for special shows.

  4. Thanks for the inside info Gary. I do hope the New Parkway succeeds, and I'll definitely be back at some point to check on the food options and the venue's progress.