George R.R. Martin reopens Santa Fe art house theater

George R.R. Martin, in suspenders, with the cast and writer-producers of "Game of Thrones" at 2013's Comic-Con.
(Kevin Winter / Getty Images)

Fans lucky enough to have scored tickets to the Jean Cocteau Cinema in Santa Fe on Friday night handed them over to none other than author George R.R. Martin, who was manning the door.

The author of the books behind the hit HBO series “Game of Thrones” has used his earnings to buy and restore -- complete with legendary popcorn -- the shuttered movie theater.

“The Grand Re-Opening of the Jean Cocteau Cinema came off as scheduled on Friday evening ... something I scarcely would have believed a week ago,” Martin writes on his website. “We made it with ... ah ... minutes to spare.”


The 120-seat movie theater shut its doors in 2006 after operating for 22 years. After sitting empty for years, a “for sale” sign went up. “Why doesn’t somebody reopen it,” Martin thought at first, he explained to the Santa Fe New Mexican. Then: “Why don’t I reopen it?”

Martin bought the theater quietly in February, but rumors of its ownership began to leak out, so he formally announced the purchase in April.

This weekend’s screenings demonstrate the fantastic range of films the theater will be showing. Jean Cocteau’s “Orpheus” and the sci-fi classic “Forbidden Planet” traded showtimes, with John Carpenter’s 1974 film “Dark Star” in the late-late slot.

And there was a special guest (in addition to Martin and his wife, Parris): a fully functioning Robby the Robot, one of the stars of “Forbidden Planet.”

On his website, Martin writes, “We had full houses for almost all our matinees and evening showings, and good crowds for the two midnight shows as well. Large, enthusiastic, diverse crowds -- young and old, of every race and ethnicity, native Santa Feans and newcomers to town and tourists just here for the weekend, geeks and straights, boys and girls, old folks and children, hardcore SF fans and devotees of the French new wave... they all mixed and mingled in the Cocteau’s gorgeously redesigned cafe area, enjoyed our first art exhibition, and then filed into the hall to enjoy the films.”

Locals apparently held the theater’s popcorn in high esteem. “I am bound and determined that we are once again going to have the best popcorn in town,” Martin promised in April. He delivered on that promise, with real butter and special toppings.


Will being a movie theater owner distract him? Martin says no, “I’m a writer. I’m a novelist. I’m a screenwriter, a television producer and writer. I’m not a real-estate magnate or a theater owner, but I’ve always loved movies, and I’ve always loved old theaters.” He’s got someone else managing the film programming, so he can keep working on “The Winds of Winter,” the next book in the Songs of Ice and Fire series, the basis for “Game of Thrones.”


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