By K.D. Wallis
Friday night arrived and my friend Marci and I had no plans. “How about a cheap movie?” I suggested. “We could go to the $3 movies in North Hollywood and catch ‘The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’. Huh? Huh?” “Sure”, she said, “but, ummm, a three dollar movie?” I could hear the fear and loathing creeping into her voice, as she imagined stained carpeting and homeless men sleeping in the corners — she’s from New York, after all — but I assured her there was nothing to worry about. “You have nothing to worry about,” I said, trying not to snicker and sound reassuring at the same time. “I’ll pick you up at 6:15.” As we headed north from her apartment in Studio City, I felt her stiffening up. “Uh, where are we going?” she asked, that note of fear returning to her voice again. “To a land far, far away — at Victory and Laurel Canyon. You’ll see.” I parked directly in front of the marquee of the Regency Theatre. As Marci gingerly stepped out of the car, she said, “Are you sure it’s only $3? How do you know?” Oh, boy. “Look up,” I said. “It’s right there on the marquee.” And so it was.
A pretty, smiling young woman sold us our $3 tickets and Marci began to relax. “Popcorn?” I asked. When she saw how cheap the popcorn and drinks were, the deal was sealed. I can’t say that the girl behind the counter was particularly smiley, but she was certainly efficient. When we ordered a medium popcorn, she said as if our lives hung in the balance, “Don’t you want to upgrade it by fifty cents to a large?” Well, of course we did. But she was unable to convince us to add anything more to our order (“Hot dogs? Candy?”). We aren’t pushovers, you know.
This is when the nice stuff began to happen. The young man who took our tickets as we entered the theaters area actually smiled at us and thanked us for coming. Another young guy (are you sitting down?) preceded us to the doorway and (gulp!) opened the door for us, telling us to enjoy the film. There weren’t more than about twenty people in the theater, which means they only took in about $60 for this showing of a nearly three-hour film. (As an aside, both of us were shocked and disgusted by the fact that there were several parents with their kids in attendance. Unless they had been holed up in a cave for the past couple of years, how could they not know about all of the violence, nudity and graphic sex in what has become a worldwide phenomenon: the Swedish series, first of books and then films that preceded this American-made version. Sorry, but I have to say it. Idiots! When your little kids start acting out, blame yourselves!)
Always the last one to leave any film, since I insist on reading all of the credits in the end roll, I was again delighted when yet another young man who was waiting to clean the theater smiled at me and said, “Hope you enjoyed the movie!” I was sorry that Marci had gone ahead of me and missed that. As we walked out, a couple of more friendly faces said “Good night – thanks for coming” and we left with smiles on our own faces, despite all of the morbid death and destruction we had just sat through. Don’t misunderstand. We both enjoyed almost every minute of the film and agree that Rooney Mara is the next big star whose career we intend to follow. I’m only sorry that I waited so long to see the film.
Now I want to rent the original Swedish version and compare the two movies. Hey! Maybe the Regency could devote one of their six screens to foreign films – perhaps even old ones. They couldn’t possibly garner fewer ticket sales than “…Dragon Tattoo” did as a late bloomer. Now, there’s an idea that would make a lot of us happy! After all, I can’t be the only person in the Valley who remembers the Sherman Theater, in Sherman Oaks, that successfully showed nothing but foreign films for decades. Or am I…?