Saturday, August 17, 2013

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

WHO: Composer John Williams is, as far as I'm concerned, the most crucial creative contributor to this film.

WHAT: Everyone knows this film. But did you know that an important scene in this film was shot (though not set) in San Francisco, with both Harrison Ford and Karen Allen filmed on location in a familiar SF environment? No, I'm not talking about the brief, actorless shot of the Golden Gate Bridge represented by the screen capture above. Hint: it's a location shared by Gus Van Sant's biopic Milk.

I thought I was a pretty eagle-eyed spotter of my city in films, and had even accepted the task of writing a short essay on the subject in the book World Film Locations: San Francisco, which is newly available for purchase at finer Frisco Bay stores including City Lights and Moe's. But it wasn't until I opened my copy of the book that I realized the San Francisco connection to Raiders of the Lost Ark

The format of the World Film Locations series (of which there are more than twenty published so far) is that each book features about forty-five individual scenes from about forty-five different movies, each highlighting one of about forty-five different locations in the city. Most of the featured films are better known for their San Francisco-ness than Raiders of the Lost Ark but I was glad to learn about it and other unexpected entries among the selections. Now I want to revisit the film again, as it's been years since I've seen it in its entirety.

WHERE/WHEN: This morning at the Balboa Theatre only at 10:00 AM.

WHY: George Lucas has long been one of the foremost proponents of digital production and presentation, so it's no surprise that his movies are among those no longer available in 35mm distribution prints. As more and more titles fall into this category it leaves a neighborhood theatre like the Balboa with the option of screening a Blu-Ray or nothing at all. I've heard rumors that some companies (Disney and Fox were mentioned) are becoming reluctant to allow their library to be screened via Blu-Ray in cinemas, meaning only theatres with DCP capability can host showings of their titles. 

Thus the Balboa is holding what I believe to be the first "go digital or go dark"  kickstarter campaign to hit San Francisco. These crowd-funding appeals for funds to purchase new DCP-level projection equipment have been spreading across the nation in 2012 and 2013, thanks to major studio threats to make it impossible for a commercial theatre to legally screen any of their properties in formats other than DCP. The closest-to-home theatre to attempt one of these campaigns before the Balboa was the Rio Vista, a Quonset hut cinema up on the Russian River Noeth if Frisco Bay. Their campaign was successful, and it's looking pretty good for the Balboa too, as it's about halfway to its goal for bringing DCP to one of its two theatres, with 40 days left in the campaign. 

Meanwhile the venue is showing, along with 35mm prints of two of the only mainstream releases available that way (the Butler and Elysium), less-than-DCP quality digital screenings of all three 1980s Indiana Jones movies on successive Saturdays in August, and a documentary on VHS tape collectors that was reviewed by Cheryl Eddy in this week's Bay Guardian.

Finally, for fans of Lucas and John Williams and Harrison Ford and digital projection, it's just been announced that the Mill Valley Film Festival will screen Return of the Jedi at the Corte Madera Cinema October 7th. Beside Still Waters is the only other announced festival title so far; it plays October 12th.

HOW: Raiders of the Lost Ark screens as a Blu-Ray projection. A free popcorn and drink are included in the $10 ticket price.

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