Most nights when patrons of the New Beverly Cinema in Los Angeles approach the repertory theater’s ticket counter, they’re greeted by Julia Marchese, whose cherubic smile and snazzy hair — the color changes with the seasons — is bound to lift spirits no matter what double bill of cult classics, foreign fare or well-established cinematic treasures are playing that night. In the six years she’s worked there, Marchese has quite literally put a happy face on the theater, even as the New Beverly hasn’t gone through the happiest of times in recent years.
After original owner and programmer Sherman Torgan passed away in 2007, the mecca for Los Angeles cinephiles has been valiantly run by his son Michael though it faced eviction before Quentin Tarantino stepped in to become the theater’s landlord and with the growing shift towards digital projection and prints, it now faces the depleting availability of films to show in their original 35mm format. While Marchese has already done her best to bring attention to the latter problem for a great many repertory theaters around the country by collecting over 10,000 signatures on the ongoing “Save 35mm” petition, she has begun work on preserving the legacy of the New Beverly Cinema with the new documentary “Out of Print,” which is currently raising funds on Kickstarter before a May 24th deadline.
“I am really hoping that audiences will see this film and realize how important it is to support independent and revival cinemas near them,” said Marchese, who also intends for the project to continue to raise the profile of single-screen theaters across the country while celebrating the rich history of the New Beverly.
Joining in on the fun will be a host of filmmakers who have dropped by the theater for special screenings in recent years, including the ubiquitous Edgar Wright, whose “Scott Pilgrim Versus the World” plays the theater at midnight once a month, John Landis, Patton Oswalt, Allison Anders, Joe Dante, Rian Johnson, Mark Romanek and too many others to name. That many of those same people return to the theater as regular moviegoers will surely be noted by the documentary, which will aim to channel the warm familial vibe of the place where as Marchese points out, “an 85- year-old former movie star, a 18-year-old film geek and a famous director all chat in the lobby like it's no big deal.”
“Ever since I started working at the New Bev, I always thought it would be a great subject for a documentary,” said Marchese, whose advocacy for 35mm film finally pushed her towards making her directorial debut. “I certainly plan to touch on the topics of the importance of 35mm and revival cinema within the New Bev framework. Mainly, I want to share this crazy place with the world.”
To that end, Marchese isn’t only asking for monetary contributions, but also to borrow archival materials the theater’s regulars may have kept over the years, such as the New Bev’s legendary handcrafted monthly calendars, event pictures, videos and other keepsakes. “Out of Print” will trace the theater’s roots back well before the late Torgan took it over in 1978, chronicling its transition from a vaudeville theater in the early part of the 20th century to an arthouse in the ‘50s to the beloved local cinema it stands as today.
And yet while the film will naturally look back on the past as a history of the New Beverly Cinema, “Out of Print” will also be very much a product of this incredible moment for Marchese, a period of time in which she has mobilized thousands of people to lobby studios to keep their celluloid archives open, graced the cover of LA Weekly for their extensive piece on the dangers of an all-digital future for movies and now is preparing to make her first feature.
“This year has been incredible,” said Marchese. “I feel so lucky to be getting positive recognition for standing up for what I believe in, and now to get the opportunity to make a film about my favorite place in the world, and getting to interview some of my heroes for it as well? I'm a happy, happy bunny.”
As any guest of the New Beverly can attest, that happiness can be contagious and should “Out of Print” reach its goal on Kickstarter, it could finally spread well beyond the city limits of Los Angeles.
To back this project and see the filmmaker's personal pitch video, check out their Kickstarter page here. And follow the film's progress on Twitter, Facebook, Marchese's personal blog and the official site of the New Beverly.