DVD Review: Going Attractions: The Definitive Story of the Movie Palace

STUDIO: Passion River | DIRECTOR: April Wright
RELEASE DATE: Oct. 20, 2020 | PRICE: DVD $24.95
SPECS: NR | 84 min. | Documentary | stereo

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie  | Audio  | Video  | Overall 

Just when you thought Netflix, Hulu and other streaming movies were taking over the world, along comes a terrific documentary like Going Attractions: The Definitive Story of the Movie Palace to remind us how much fun going out to a movie theater used to be.

April Wright, who also examined outdoor film going with 2013’s sister effort Going Attractions: The Definitive Story of the American Drive-In, delves into the history of the great movie palaces with this entertaining and moving fact-based feature dedicated to the big screen wonder of Hollywood.

Wright captures the evolution of cinema and cinema showmanship here. Using archival footage and photographs and informative interviews, she traces the rise of the grand film fortresses, from the early days of the art form where nickelodeons and storefront cinemas showcased the burgeoning entertainment technology, through the building boom of gorgeous auditoriums between the World Wars, to the expansion of theaters across the suburbs following World War II. Also covered is the decline of film exhibition in the inner-city during the 1960s, and the noble attempts to keep some magnificent remaining picture palaces open despite complex financial and social issues.

While Going Attractions serves as an expert academic overview of film history, Wright’s passionate approach also touches a chord for those who recall the good, ol’ days of moviegoing.

It’s no surprise that the anchor of the doc is historian/critic Leonard Maltin, who interjects his knowledge of all aspects of Hollywood history throughout in his trademark genial yet authoritative style. Aiding Maltin to chronicle this all-American saga are such likably knowledgeable and quirky experts as Ross Melnick, author and professor at the University of California; Matt Lambros, who specializes in photographing old movie palaces; and Rosie Novellino-Mearns, the woman who helped save Radio City Music Hall from being shuttered in the late 1970s.

In addition, there are other saviors of cinematic structures in Los Angeles and Chicago interviewed. All of them– like filmmaker Wright and Maltin and company– deserve a big “thank you” for reminding us of the pre-streaming glory days of seeing movies the way they were meant to be seen.

Buy or Rent Going Attractions: The Definitive Story of the Movie Palace
on DVD

About Irv

Irv Slifkin has been reviewing movies since before he got kicked off of his high school radio station for panning The Towering Inferno in 1974. He has written the books VideoHound’s Groovy Movies: Far-Out Films of the Psychedelic Era and Filmadelphia: A Celebration of a City’s Movies, and has contributed film reportage and reviews to such outlets as Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, Video Business magazine and National Public Radio.