Yearning for a truly luxurious movie experience? A consortium of interests headed by Village Roadshow Ltd. has announced plans for a nationwide chain of “Gold Class Cinemas” that would make attendance enjoyable again. Amenities would include digital projection, reclining armchairs and high-end foods like sushi (orderable at the touch of a button). The idea is to draw the upscale customer out of the protective cocoon of his or her home theater and back into the ticket-buying flow. The going price? A cool $35 per admission.

Howls of outrage have been heard on websites like Ain’t It Cool News, whose habitués have correctly pointed out that the cure for anemic theater attendance isn’t charging more for an upgraded product: It’s investing money in restoring the experience we already have to a basic level of tolerability. (Remember “ushers”?)

But the affront represented by the Gold Class plan runs even deeper. Movies are a great art form because they have traditionally been available to all Americans on roughly the same terms. Unlike live performances or sports, in which the “good seats” are usually reserved for those with the deepest pockets, a film is offered at a set price, for the implied edification of a diverse audience.

The Gold Class plan, in contrast, deposits viewing comfort in the lap of an affluent elite, while sequestering the rest of us in the crumbling, neglected caverns that, Village Roadshow et al. seem to imply, are all we deserve. Sorry, but we’re not buying it – literally.


Opening Friday, April 11

  • The Band’s Visit With another Florida Film Festival come and gone, the Enzian offers up an eagerly awaited dramedy about an Egyptian orchestra stranded inside Israel. Whimsical culture clashes, underlying tensions, bewildered Jews … sure sounds like the festival to us! (Sony Pictures Classics; PG-13; at Enzian Theater, Maitland)
  • CJ7 A cute little alien (think E.T. crossed with Gizmo from Gremlins) comes to Earth and finds himself in the middle of all manner of horseplay. Director Stephen Chow helmed the slapstick Kung Fu Hustle, which helps explain why the title critter of this “family” picture reportedly comes in for such a pasting. (Sony Pictures Classics; PG)
  • Persepolis The Academy Award–nominated animated memoir is rereleased in a dubbed English-language version … because when you’re watching a movie based on a graphic novel, the last thing you want to do is read. (Sony Pictures Classics; PG-13)
  • Smart People More midlife crisis Dennis Quaid–style, with everybody’s aging All-American playing a widowed literature professor (!) struggling to reconnect with his brother (Thomas Haden Church) and teenage daughter (the suddenly ubiquitous Ellen Page). (Miramax; R)
  • Street Kings James Ellroy co-wrote this story of betrayal on the Los Angeles police force, in which Keanu Reeves, Forest Whitaker and Jay Mohr once again play guys who could and would kick the crap out of them in real life. (Fox Searchlight; R)
  • Prom Night A remake of the 1980 horror flick about a crazed slasher who just can’t get over high school. Oh, like any of us can. (Sony Pictures; PG-13)


Available Tuesday, April 15

  • Juno At this very moment, girls across America are striving to get pregnant because it obviously makes you so damn witty. (Fox Searchlight; PG-13)
  • Lars and the Real Girl Last chance to hook up with this acclaimed indie comedy and witness Ryan Gosling carrying on a wholly platonic affair with a blow-up doll. (MGM/United Artists; PG-13)
  • I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With Fattie Jeff Garlin (Curb Your Enthusiasm) falls for smart-mouthed hottie Sarah Silverman in a movie that might have fared better at the box office had it been titled I Want Someone to Eat Cheese Off. (IFC Films; NR)
  • Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead One of our favorite notices for this Sidney Lumet–directed ensemble drama called Ethan Hawke’s burglar character “a whipped dog of low intelligence.” See, that’s what we’ve been saying for years. (Image Entertainment; R)


Available Tuesday, April 15

  • Forgetting Sarah Marshall In a refreshing break from the usual “songs from and inspired by” nonsense, the soundtrack to this hugely hyped comedy features tunes supposedly integral to the plot, including one number described as a “rock opera about Dracula for puppets.” Wow! It’s as if God himself read our MySpace profile. (Verve)

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