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...a sweatshop of moxie

Monday, January 30, 2006


The words "movie palace" brings to mind Americana at its most lavish, self-indulgent, and utterly beguiling.

Instantly, one is transported back to the 1920's and 1930's, when going to the pictures was the only game in many towns.

Thankfully, the spirit of the wonder of entertainment lives on.

This is my second blogpost devoted to showing you interesting or unique cinemahouses here in Florida.

You've already travelled up the Nile with me, to visit the Muvico Paradise 24, that splendiforous Egyptian-themed chain moviehouse in Davie.

Now follow me as we enter the brand-spanking new Muvico Parisian 20, in toney West Palm Beach!

Immediately you see, whether or not you've heard of the Garnier Opera House in Paris, that its décor is supposed to be grand, imposing, not the least bit humourous, unlike the Paradise pharaohs and mummies.

But don't let its lack of humour fool you. It doesn't take itself that seriously as an edifice.

Instead, allow it to show you its silly side, with its fake marble columns, and stunningly faded pastel etchings on the ceiling.

Suspend your disbelief for a moment, and imagine just how much cinemagoing meant to people 80 years ago:

When people came in their finest, whether in Paris, Edinburgh, or Cleveland, to watch the latest flick on offer, surrounded by velour curtains, and olde worlde magic.

After all, life is all about the spells we cast on ourselves, with eyes wide open.


First, a history lesson.

The Muvico Parisian is indeed inspired by the Garnier in Paris, home of the opera house which has seen almost two centuries of musical history, such as Bizet's Carmen, and almost everything written by Offenbach.

The real Garnier is awash in the deep burnt umbers, and subtle beiges of genuine elegance.

It has inspired opera houses the world over, like Rio de Janeiro's Teatro Municipal, which like the Garnier, I've also been to -- I even got to sit in the Presidential Box for my gringa troubles.

You see, however, that the semi-tropical Brazilians decided to dazzle the eyes with strong colours, like gold leaf, and the most crimson of red carpets.

We in South Florida, have almost the same temperature, but neither the willingness nor the eye necessary to get away with such over-the-top statements.

Everywhere you turn down here, it is soft focus palettes which greet the eye.

Not for nothing, did Miami Vice make infamous the baby pistachios, pinks and blues of South Florida.

But enough talk. On to the show!

West Palm Beach has always suffered in comparison to its sister-city just over the bridge, Palm Beach.

And believe me, they are as chalk and cheese.

One, the absolute country club jewel of the South, home to the Kennedys, the Harrimans, the Vanderbilts, but also now to the upstart Trumps.

The other, aspiring to have some of that glamour rub off it, but like all nouveaux riches, never knowing just when to stop trying to impress.

CityPlace, the new walk-through mall in West Palm, is a case in point. It cradles Fendi shops, alongside Crate & Barrels.

One has to traipse across a lot of shops to get to the Muvico Parisian. But at least the palm trees keep you company.

Just outside the theatre, is this lovely Spanish-colonial building, the Harriet Himmel Perfoming Arts Centre, which is desperately trying to look older than its less than a decade-old age.

My mother crossed herself as she passed by, as she thought it was a church.

People probably took her for an actress on the eve of opening night.

We're at the Box Office, where the floral-vested attendants keep careful watch over drunken preppies in Topsiders, collars turned up -- the traditional mating dress of the oversexed Trust Fund Baby.

See how he is mugging to my camera? Later, he approached me asking me if I know a good place to eat out.

The way he leered when saying "eat out" made me turn and run like Bambi.

And speaking of dress habits, the French cinema-audience is just so much more formal than the American one.

Americans do black-tie occasions as well as anybody, but why ya'll don't put on a nice coat and tie, or iron that dress, to go the pictures is beyond me.

Show off your duds, people!

The first thing that hits you are the pillars. Plasticky, yes.

They're not like the Muvico Paradise ones, which looked solid, and massive outside.

But they tried, bless them.

Ah. Now that's more like it.

The next sight you see as you enter, are the gas lamps all around, with dimmed lights taking away some of the brandspanking newness of the place.

Looking up at the ceiling, you see portrayed a Raphaelo aquatint, showcasing Diana the Huntress frolicking with Madame de Pompadour, Louis XV's mistress.

Actually, I just made that up. I have no clue who those chubbettes are.

And as you can see, no expense was spared to make these pillars as Corinthianly dazzling as possible.

Unfortunately, Louis Sez You never figured there would be such things as security cameras, as one peeps voyeuristically at us from on high.

Despite that Big Brother Is Watching You moment, I was thinking that Muvico had hit a homerun with this cinema, since everything looked charming.

Then I saw this alcove below the tasteful red carpeted staircase, which sadly, I don't have a photo for you, as my hand shook when I took the piccie.

I didn't know WHAT it reminded me of, until I got to another scene below. You'll see.

Quick! Hurry! We'll miss the previews!

Salons 16-20 have the so-called "sofa seating" in them, where you can stretch out even more than just putting up those foldable armrests some chains now manditorily have.

Very comfy to spoon with your loved one, just like at home.

But don't forget my hot buttered popcorn, medium Coke, and croque monsieur or else, Fifi!

I loved these bulbous chandeliers, which really do remind me of the gaslamps in the Garnier, that I include two vistas for you.

This one is the close-up, and located just to the side of the up-down escalator. Maybe you think it spoils the carefully crafted faux-ancientness to have two escalators on either side, but I don't.

Paris may not be kind to the aged and handicapped, but Florida sure is.

And finally, this is the photo which reminded me of that place I mentioned above.

Have you ever been to the Magic Kingdom, and attended the animatronics showing at the Hall of Presidents?

You know, the one where Lincoln narrates a stirring account of American history in Panavision, and the other 42 wax dummies of the Presidents move around, like Grover Cleveland and Calvin Coolidge waving to the audience?

It's the spitting image!

Yes, it is true.

Modern America is Disneyfied, even if it's not aware of it sometimes.

But that's perfectly all right in my book.

Walt Disney tried to bring the world to Americans, by reconstructing everything anew.

In doing so, he took away the history, but also the grime, pettiness, and rudeness of reality.

Maybe some may look at this Parisian Muvico and say, "eh", but for what it represents, that little fantasy that you're in Paris even if it's 85F in the palm treed shade outside, is fine by me.

Besides, any evening where you don't see a mime, is a success.


  • Another interesting Muvico post! Did you see Miami Herald article about Muvico CEO's ouster and ongoing litigation? May slow down their theater development!

    By Blogger Jose Aguirre, at Mon Jan 30, 03:51:00 pm GMT-5  

  • Another interesting Muvico post!

    Thanks, Jose!

    I like composing these specially for my SoFla-centric readers, who can see the perhaps unexplored, but cool places they can go to.

    But I do have to say that I note the lack of response in comments.

    I will write about anything I like -- whether it's enjoyed by one person or two thousand, makes no difference.

    But also, I like to see that people are enjoying it.

    And maybe people just aren't interested in these types of travellogues anymore...

    Did you see Miami Herald article about Muvico CEO's ouster and ongoing litigation? May slow down their theater development!

    What! The Iranian-American founder was ousted?? But he made Muvico what it is today!

    Ah well.

    No, I didn't see that, since I no longer subscribe or read online, The Miami Horrible. No offence if you have relatives at Knight-Ridder. ;)

    I did, however, speak to the manager of the Parisian who informed me one of the building themed-projects was off.

    He thinks it's the one at Kendall, which would be a catastrophe for us here, IMO.

    As Val mentioned, the Town & Country, and Kendall 9 movie theatres are the absolute pits -- not dirty, just boring and undistinguished.

    And the one at the Falls is just too far away.

    Other than that olllllld movie theatre opposite Dadeland Mall (do you remember that? ;), where Publix is now, that area is really bereft of cinemahouses.

    The area would really need one to liven things up.

    Next Muvico Stop: Tampa Ybor!!


    By Blogger vbspurs, at Mon Jan 30, 07:14:00 pm GMT-5  

  • Another nice post on what other Europeans might deride as 'typical American Kitsch' (as if that was a bad thing).

    (warning --- self promotion alert --- warning)

    The Disneyfication of attractions is a good thing, now if only Disney were asked to manage holy sites in the Muslim world.

    And if you want to know the horrors of unDisneyfication visit Santa Monica. We are a tourist Makkah, popular with Australians, Europeans, Japanese, Chinese, Brazilians, etc., but our oh so liberal and socially conscience city council won't protect its assets and discourage our hearty homeless population from harrassing the cities tax base (recently our city was celebrating a $2,000,000 windfall in increased revenue due to a rise in foreign tourism) in the most popular tourist destinations (The pier, and third street promenade, namely).

    At some point the attractiveness of the place will be outweighed by the repulsiveness of an element of the crowd and those tourist will stop coming. But our council seems intent on ignoring the depth of the problem.

    And on a completely different note, "But I do have to say that I note the lack of response in comments.

    The lack of comments are due to the perfection of the original post, no elaboration is possible, so we sit in awed silence with our fingers unable to clatter across the keyboard.

    In other words, speaking for myself, your efforts posting this kind of post (and all your other posts for that matter) are appreciated.

    (warning --- needless, excessive self-pity alert --- warning)

    If you want to hear the sound of crickets chirping, look at my moribund and infrequently commented upon posts. (which you have from time to time, commented on and for that I am grateful).

    By Blogger XWL, at Mon Jan 30, 07:59:00 pm GMT-5  

  • XWL from Santa Monica?

    Palms, represent!

    Okay, okay, it was 25 years ago, but, there I was.

    My brother lives in Venice. I took his son to the pier 20 years ago. I made the cardinal error when minding a five year old. I lost sight of him. Frantic? sheesh! I found him playing air hockey with a guy smoking a cigarette and with a trickle of blood depending from beneath the bandage over his new, infected tattoo. Good times, good times. Haven't been back, actually.

    vbspurs: The pics and the text are swell. Don't give short shrift to the pastels, dear, the deco thing is perfect for Miami and the golden age of cinema, the 1930s. I've been in every deco, sorta chinese, walk up egyptian, mezzo mesopotamian, and mayan heaven cinematic monstrosity in Southern California, and adored every one.

    Wanna go see touch of evil at the Strand? We can see Charlton Heston be a Mexican.

    By Blogger SippicanCottage, at Mon Jan 30, 11:31:00 pm GMT-5  

  • I'm still waiting for the drive-in post.;)

    Another great theatre! Muvico is really good at themes to draw in people to theatres. It's nice to see them work on the details too. A French Bistro would be a nice touch.

    I still prefer the size of the Egyptian. :)

    By Blogger Renato, at Tue Jan 31, 12:08:00 pm GMT-5  

  • Victoria,

    Muvico Egyptian seemed more impressive, but both posts are interesting and well-written. I'd love a comfy sofa in the theater.

    And mad props (as the kids say) for the Louis Sez pun right after the Madame Pompadour comment!

    vw: prkfolq = Kim's oppressed masses.

    By Blogger Pastor_Jeff, at Tue Jan 31, 05:26:00 pm GMT-5  

  • First, I like commenting sometimes on a post where everyone has moved on, trying to keep up with that Sundries woman, a most enjoyably difficult ambition. It's quiet then and I feel it's alright to put my feet up and relax. Most likely, no one will even see what I say.

    I'd love to see dress up for certain events, even horrors! School.
    Young men arriving in sports coat and tie and dare I say, girls in dress for an evening out. There was a time when critical first impressions were made thus. Parents exercised judgement halting romances. Or trying to interrupt. Or approving.

    Places like this, kept clean, befit this. It would require quite a rollback of times to when people felt safer, authority was more than just a figure and there was actual fear in getting caught and facing real punishment. At Home!
    Can it ever be real again? Can the people match the building? It would be interesting to me, of course I've no financial interest to protect but if a dress code was installed, one that judges would stay away from, just to see how well the M. Parisian would do.
    I think I already know.

    Victoria, a beautiful tour and comparison to Paris' Garnier. I like how the French make 'ier' into an 'a'.
    Is that right?
    Thank you for taking on such a dangerous mission for us, even braving attack by high-collared Cassanova's. Such loyalty should be rewarded.

    By Blogger Paul, at Thu Feb 02, 11:39:00 pm GMT-5  

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