It absolutely breaks my heart to say this, but the New Beverly Cinema that have I loved and stood so ardently for – and that I believe so many of you out there love and stand up for – is gone.
The first time I walked into the New Beverly Cinema in October of 2001, I heard a little voice inside me say: “This is where you belong.”
It felt like home.
I loved that the theater was slightly shabby, that the prices were too cheap, the butter was still real, the films were still on film. I loved the kooky cast of characters working there, and the even kookier regulars who came to watch the films.
All you needed to be welcomed with open arms was a love of film.
Here was a place that was never about money or power, but solely about the love of cinema.
A quixotic throwback to a time when ideals meant something.
Run by a family, and casual to a fault, the New Bev seemed to me a time machine back to 1978 – when the theater opened – when revival cinemas were king.
I asked Sherman Torgan – then the owner – for a job that first day and every time I returned for five years. I knew I had to work there. I would wait as long as it took.
Eventually, he gave up one of his own shifts for me, and I started working at the Bev in May of 2006.
I was over the moon.
Shortly after I started, Sherman asked why he hadn’t hired me five years ago. He was astounded and amused by my youthful enthusiasm for the theater, which brimmed over in bucketfuls. He told me I breathed new life into the stagnant theater. Even stocking the candy counters made me happy – I was finally part of The New Beverly Cinema! The best movie theater in the world!
Over the past eight years, I felt I have given more of myself to the theater than I had to give. I have loved that place with all of me, and have told every soul I came in contact with about how absolutely fantastic it is. I have loved it more than any person should love a theater.
And now everything I have been fighting for with all of my heart all this time has just been taken away.
I can’t fight anymore.
I am done.
But let’s back up a bit, shall we?
Mid July of this year, I was summoned to a meeting at Quentin Tarantino’s house and informed that as of October 1st, 2014, Quentin would be taking over ownership of the New Beverly Cinema, and that I – along with Brian Quinn, who has run our Grindhouse nights for years – was to be one of the co-managers of the 35mm-only-from-now-on-forever-and-ever-amen Bev.
You can imagine how I felt – personally hand-picked by Quentin Tarantino to run his movie theater in Hollywood! A dream come true!
And I was being promoted to a salaried manager position! I made slightly less than $14,000 in 2013, so the thought of making nearly four times that – with paid vacation and health benefits – was dizzying. Living paycheck to paycheck and being on food stamps at 35 years old is a sobering feeling – one I was ecstatic to say goodbye to.
I was, as far as I understood it, to be the public face of the theater – to conduct guest interviews, run the social media outlets and to be front and center in the box office – the first face that the customers would see.
I take my box office position very seriously. I feel that it is my job to welcome every single person who walks through that door, and make them feel like they are part of something unique. I get to welcome them to the coolest movie theater and because I genuinely love the place, this task is a delight.
I was so excited to tell everyone about all of the exciting upgrades the theater was going to get!
Instead, a social media muzzling was immediately ordered.
I was not allowed to instagram, twitter, facebook, blog, or in any other way talk publicly about what was happening with the New Beverly.
I am a very open person and love sharing my life online. It hurt to ignore the dozens of emails, phone calls and texts asking me what was happening with the theater.
If I ignored you, I’m sorry.
I was censored.
This social media muzzling eventually became a confidentiality agreement that I refused to sign which would forbid me to say anything at all, on any public forum, about my job, the New Beverly Cinema or Quentin Tarantino.
Any violation of this agreement – and they would be constantly monitoring my social media outlets –was grounds for immediate dismissal.
Why would you want to silence your employees from saying good things about your business?
Because that is all I would ever say about the Bev.
This monitoring soon became physical as well – we were welcomed into work last week with cameras absolutely everywhere. Not only watching the box office and snack bar, where the money is, but the manager’s office and projection booth as well.
We weren’t being protected, we were being watched.
When I asked to know who was watching the monitors, I was ignored.
In the six weeks I worked with this new management “team”, which hypothetically included Julie McLean – Quentin’s personal assistant – Brian Quinn and projectionist Jeff Nowicki, I was left feeling completely vulnerable and isolated.
Although I was now a manager in title, I was never given any job parameters or instructions.
I was constantly left in the dark, my emails unanswered.
Emails about the status of our social media.
Emails about why showtimes aren’t easy to find online.
Emails about our inventory, about the theater, about my position.
Emails asking for help.
I was completely frozen out.
In fact Julie, my immediate superior, hasn’t answered an email of mine since October 3rd.
And yet, I was supposed to be managing a theater during all of this time.
This past Monday morning I was called to a last minute meeting by Julie McLean – the new general manager of the Bev – who informed me that, although I had only started my new position less than two weeks before, she had come to the conclusion that I was not manager material.
Effective immediately, I was to be demoted to snack bar, with no shifts guaranteed. In layman’s terms: I won’t fire you, because then I would have to pay unemployment, but I simply won’t schedule you – which forces resignation.
She assured me that any argument was useless. No, I was not allowed to state my side of the case, nor could I talk to Quentin. She had already assured him that this was the best move for the theater, and he had given his consent to allow her ultimate power in all decisions regarding the theater.
She wouldn’t listen to anything I had to say, and found all of my arguments “bordering on insubordination”.
My last gasp was pleading with her – couldn’t she see that there was a feeling, a soul to this place that she was only going to crush? Couldn’t she see that?
She told me I was making it about myself, like I made everything about myself.
My last words to her were:
“You’re going to turn this place into a fucking multiplex, and it’s a goddam drag.”
I think Quentin Tarantino is an incredibly talented filmmaker with his heart in the right place. He’s been my personal hero for several years – here’s a man who uses his celebrity in the best possible way – to insure 35mm will be around and to save a theater that both of us see as something extraordinary.
However, I think he has people working for him that aren’t serving his best interests.
He needs to wake up and see that these people are killing the very thing he is trying to keep alive.
For my dedication to the New Beverly, I am rewarded with no job, $47 in my bank account and a finished documentary film about a place that no longer exists.
Out of Print is a film I made about how important 35mm exhibition is and how special revival cinemas are – I illustrate this case with showing you ONE special cinema – The Bev.
I have been struggling to make this film since 2012, and am proud to say it is finally finished.
I was planning a big premiere at the New Beverly in January – on a 35mm print.
Obviously, that isn’t going to happen.
That’s why I have decided to let you all watch the documentary I made about the New Beverly Cinema – Out of Print – now.
I hope you will see first hand the enthusiasm I had for that place, and the passion I will always have for cinema. No matter what you think of the film, you can’t deny that my love for The New Beverly Cinema shines through.
And I hope it will encourage you to support that struggling mom and pop theater near you.
Embrace it while you can.
It may not always be there.
As for me, I have no idea what the future holds.
All I know is that I refuse to be censored anymore.