When I moved to Southern California 18 months ago, one goal was to get invited inside the gates of a major motion picture studio. (I was once flown out by Disney for a job interview and was taken to lunch on their studio lot, but since it was Disney, it really wasn’t fun, so that doesn’t count). Last week, I was able to check this item off my L.A. “to do” list with an invite to a screening of “Get Smart” on the Warner Brothers studio lot in Burbank.
The first thing I noticed was the high security at Warner Brothers. At least one of the gates we passed on Olive Avenue had the steel cylinders that slowly raise up from and recede into the pavement, presumably on hydraulics, just like the feds have around the White House. I’m told that the studios added this and other security features after 9/11. Guys, I don’t think your studios are very high on Al Qaeda’s target list, but whatev.
We then presented our credentials and made it past the clipboard-toting guard and the studio rep for the event. Stepping inside the rather non-descript, flesh-colored Business Development and Strategy Building, we were met by John Wayne, Jimmy Cagney, and Humphrey Bogart. Other than these large black and white movie stills lining the walls, it looked like an ordinary office building, complete with a large potted plant — perhaps fittingly fake? — with a sign that read “Do Not Water.”
Then it was up the stairs to Screening Room 12. Across from the registration table and just outside the screening room doors were two more security guards. I know they were security guards because no one else for miles was wearing a blue blazer. They gave me the once over and checked the handbag of my inviter. Hopefully, they were just looking for recording equipment, or, again, I think we’re hitting the overkill switch.
Screening Room 12 is a small movie theater, with approximately a couple of hundred seats. I’m guessing that the room dates back decades — the seats, though comfortable, had wooden backs. There was no stadium seating. It’s been a long time since I have noticed the backs of heads in a movie theater. In the center of the row in front of us was a large wooden fixture with a small screen (possibly an old CRT computer terminal), telephone, and flexible lamp. I didn’t see any executives making notes or calls there this time — perhaps they did so when reviewing the “Get Smart” dailies. The theater did have a good-sized screen and a modern, very loud surround sound system.
As for “Get Smart”? Due to the press embargo, I’m not permitted to publish a review until opening day, June 20. I will say that I really enjoyed the movie.
Perhaps one day soon, I’ll be jaded like others in “the business,” attending or turning down free screenings at the studios, the Arclight, and elsewhere with a yawn. Perhaps I will see movies as cold, dry products made by sausage factories. Until that day, however, I still find some magic and mystique in the movies, and the Los Angeles area studios that produce them.