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Review: ‘Going Attractions: The Definitive Story of the Movie Palace’ marks rise and fall

A vintage photograph of Randolph Street in Chicago from the documentary ‘Going Attractions: The Definitive Story of the Movie Palace’
A vintage photograph of Randolph Street in Chicago from the documentary “Going Attractions: The Definitive Story of the Movie Palace.”
(Passion River)

A celebration of the grand American shrines to cinema that rose to glitzy prominence during the 1920s, April Wright’s well-researched “Going Attractions: The Definitive Story of the Movie Palace,” might not quite live up to its title, but it does a decent job of capturing those golden years.

Sparing no expense when it came to sheer extravagance, theaters including New York’s 6,000-seat Roxy and Chicago’s 46,000-square-foot Uptown justifiably earned their palace moniker.

But their existence would prove short-lived. After the Depression put a sizable dent in their gilded armor, a one-two punch in the form of the Hollywood Antitrust Case of 1948, which limited studios’ ownership of theaters, followed by the advent of television, effectively darkened their marquees.

Before the intervention of film preservationists such as the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation, many had been either sitting empty or were used for worship services and swap meets, biding their time before facing an inevitable meeting with the wrecking ball.

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Compared with those opulent theaters, the documentary itself is unremarkable in structure, relying heavily on its cavalcade of archival clips and assembled knowledgeable film historians — particularly Leonard Maltin — to provide a context for their rise and fall.

“Going Attractions” nevertheless provides a timely reminder of the once unquestionable value of a shared viewing experience in this era of personal streaming.

‘Going Attractions: The Definitive Story of the Movie Palace’
Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 23 minutes

Playing: Starts Oct. 25, Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills; also Oct. 28-29, Laemmle Playhouse 7, Pasadena; Laemmle Royal, West Los Angeles; Laemmle Claremont; Laemmle Town Center 5, Encino


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