The small movie theaters known as repertory houses, where cinephiles could spend an evening watching obscure films or perennial favorites, began dying decades ago as national theater chains went on a multiplex building spree. The little venues were often sticky-floored and poorly air-conditioned, but at least they offered an option to the latest Hollywood releases.
In recent years, the big chains have begun holding one-time screenings of alternative "content" such as opera productions, musical concerts and sporting events, beamed onto screens via digital satellite. This week, that technology is bringing two older films (one suitable for families, one decidedly not) to local theaters in what almost feels like a throwback to the days of the rep house. And as an added benefit, the floors will probably be quite clean.
'THE EXORCIST: EXPANDED DIRECTOR'S CUT'
This version of the 1973 horror classic about a possessed 12-year-old (Linda Blair) has been around a while: It originally hit theaters and home video in 2000. Warner Home Video will release the Blu-ray version Tuesday, but the film - still one of the scariest ever made - demands a big-screen viewing.
That's partly because the devilish director, William Friedkin, used subtle sounds (voices, wind) and near-subliminal images (snarling faces, ominous shapes) to disorient audiences and heighten their fear. Friedkin employed these techniques again in his 1995 murder-mystery "Jade," sparking a minor controversy over audience manipulation; unfazed, he added even more trickery to the new "Exorcist."
Some critics have noted that the roughly 10 extra minutes slow the film's pacing. But one added scene - the now-famous "spider walk" - is arguably worth the price of admission. Friedkin originally filmed Blair's character (using a stunt-double) scrambling backward down a staircase, but some visible scaffolding ruined the effect and made the scene unusable. In 2000, however, new computer technology allowed Friedkin to alter the footage. The result is one of the nastiest surprises in a film that's full of them.
'BEAUTY AND THE BEAST' SING-ALONG
This 1991 film could be subtitled "How Disney Got Its Groove Back." It helped end a long creative drought at the world's most famous animation studio. It bridged two eras of animation by blending traditional ink-and-paint technique with subtle computer effects. And it made history as the first animated feature nominated for a best picture Academy Award.
After years of producing movies based on novels (such as "The Fox and the Hound" and "The Great Mouse Detective"), Disney returned to its fairy-tale roots with 1989's hugely successful "The Little Mermaid" and followed suit with "Beauty and the Beast." A little-known Broadway singer, Paige O'Hara, provided the Judy Garland-like voice of Belle; Robby Benson played the gruff, lovelorn Beast.
The film, which is being released on home video Tuesday, also benefited from an instant-classic soundtrack by "Mermaid" composers Alan Menken and Howard Ashman. At this week's screenings, every song - including favorites like "Be Our Guest" and the Oscar-winning theme sung by Angela Lansbury - will be accompanied by highlighted subtitles, encouraging audiences of all ages to join in.
"The Exorcist: Expanded Director's Cut"
INFO Thursday at 7 p.m. at Deer Park 16; AMC Fantasy 5, Rockville Centre; Farmingdale Multiplex Cinemas; Island 16 Cinema De Lux, Holtsville; Lynbrook 6; Port Washington Cinemas; AMC Stony Brook 17; AMC Raceway 10, Westbury; and Westbury Stadium 12. Show times vary. Go to fathomevents.com.
"Beauty and the Beast" Sing-along
INFO Wednesday at 6:30 and Saturday at noon at Farmingdale Multiplex Cinemas; Island 16 Cinema De Lux, Holtsville; Lynbrook 6; Port Washington Cinemas; and Westbury Stadium 12. Go to fathomevents.com.