Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Return of the Quad 6


Yesterday was one of those wistful days, for a variety of reasons. Damian and I were looking for something to do on a rainy-lazy Saturday, so I took a look at what was showing at the Quad, whose recent renovation and reopening I had recently blogged about. Sure enough, the one thing that was starting at the perfect time for us to pay the bill at brunch and head right over was "The Return of the Secaucus 7," a film I had seen Roger Ebert gush about on "Sneak Previews" back in 1980 when I was in junior high. My 8th-grade English teacher and would-be best friend, Sharon Fagan, adored me for being a Blondie fan and PBS watcher, so always made time to discuss the latest films we'd seen on the precursor to "At the Movies" and later "Siskel & Ebert."  "Return of the Secaucus 7" was one of those mythical independent films, which is to say seeing it in Phoenix wasn't likely to happen. (It would take a driver's license before I could get to the artsier film houses in Tempe and Scottsdale.) Over the years, my brother Bill and I would frequently make references to "Secaucus" -- and also "Union City," two towns I would later learn were no place to aspire to! -- but I somehow never got around to seeing it. (Director John Sayles followed it up with the wonderful "Baby, It's You" with Rosanna Arquette and Vincent Spano, which Bill and I did see, although I don't remember knowing it was the same filmmaker. Sayles said working with a major studio was a nightmare, which almost led to his name being removed from the film, much in the same way Jonathan Demme came to blows over "Swing Shift." Instead, Sayles said they let him have his final cut then just buried the film.) 


So Damian and I headed straight over to the Quad -- NYC's first multiplex when it opened in 1972, with six whole screens! -- and got tickets.  


Thought of Bill the whole time we were there -- it was just the kind thing we'd text about and I knew he'd die to see that this out-of-reach film was now playing a few blocks from my apartment, some 30 years later. 


I was impressed by the beautiful job they did renovating the old cinema, although making room for bigger concession stands, bathrooms and waiting areas unfortunately led to slightly smaller movie screens. (I used to lament that going to see old movies "on the big screen" didn't count when they were showing at Film Forum, and it seems the Quad has joined that club, now that most people's televisions are larger than its screens.)


Quaffee and Quadcorn, anyone?


Nonetheless, the film -- about seven friends who reunite after their radical college days for a dramatic and revelatory weekend -- was right up my alley, and the exact type of dialogue-driven story that would be unlikely to be made today. It didn't hurt that Jeff (played by Mark Arnott), J.T. (Adam LeFevre) and Howie (played by the filmmaker himself) were all hunky. As is often the case in New York, and especially at the Quad, writer/director/Howie John Sayles and his producing partner, Maggie Renzi (who played Katie Sipriano) were there for a Q&A afterward. Was interesting hearing them talk about the evolution of independent films -- something like how there used to be less than 20 made a year, now Sundance alone gets 3,500 entrants a year -- and how they shot "Secaucus" for $40,000. Sayles mentioned how the film hadn't done great when it was first released, but that they got a new poster and ad campaign together and it did bang-up business during the second rollout, especially at the Quad where it played for "months and months," back when films actually did that. The program director and moderator said they planned to revisit other successes from the Quad's past, which I'll look forward to checking out even if this outing never settled the dispute between Damian and me about the correct pronunciation of "Secaucus" and ultimately left me feeling hollow. The Jersey boy insists it's SEE-caucus, but Bill and I always said "Se-caucus" -- and Frank Lautenberg's no longer around to issue a definitive ruling. And Bill's no longer around either to share these little moments -- I'm dying to ask if he ever got around to seeing it -- which kind of takes the fun out everything.

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