Big-budget films hit Valley theaters

December 26, 2001|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

CALEXICO — Today movie studios are unwrapping big-budget potential blockbusters starring Will Smith in "Ali" and Meg Ryan in "Kate & Leopold."

The two films will be crowded onto the marquees of the country's multiplexes alongside films aiming for Academy Award consideration such as "The Shipping News" with Kevin Spacey, Sissy Spacek's celebrated turn in "In The Bedroom" and Robert Altman's new film, "Gosford Park."

At the Calexico 10 Theatres here, "Ali" and "Kate & Leopold" will open today.

The Movies in Imperial is opening "Ali."

That means Valleyites — particularly those living north of El Centro — will have to travel some distance to see the movies that could end up winning most of this year's Oscar statuettes.

The managers of both Valley multiplexes said there are just not enough screens in the Imperial Valley to show all the holiday releases and sometimes not enough people to come see the movies that are unspooled.


The manager of the Calexico 10, Hugo Loucel, isn't worried about the movies his theater isn't showing.

He hopes to see good Christmas Day receipts after Meg Ryan fans flock to Calexico to see "Kate & Leopold."

"Meg Ryan always brings people. She's like Julia Roberts," he said.

The co-manager of The Movies, Imperial's multiplex, Michelle Sampson, thinks "Ali" will pack a punch for her theater despite lukewarm initial reviews.

"I've heard good and bad things about it but there's been a lot of advertisement and it should be one of the really big ones," she said.

She said the films shown on the six screens at The Movies are selected by corporate management of Cal-Gran Theaters of Santa Maria.

In the lobby at The Movies, a one-sheet for "The Shipping News" hangs in the illuminated "coming soon" frame.

"Well, that means it is coming out soon but maybe not here," Sampson said.

The situation is the same in Calexico.

The movies and the number of showtimes at the Calexico 10 is set by the Los Angeles-based management of Metropolitan Theater Co.

Eleven-year-old Francita Martinez of Calexico has a beef with Metropolitan's latest offerings.

"They never show anything in Calexico," she complained Saturday night.

Martinez and three friends were waiting to see the remake of the Rat Pack classic "Ocean's 11." The four had traveled to the theaters hoping to see "How High."

To their chagrin, they found out the stoner comedy starring rappers Redman and Method Man wasn't playing in Calexico.

"They also didn't play ‘Bones' and ‘The Wash,'" Martinez said.

She's a big fan of rapper/actor Snoop Dogg, she conceded with a smile.

When the time came for Martinez and her buddies to head into the theater, Rosa Dominguez and her family walked out.

The Calexican had just watched Peter Jackson's first installment of "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy.

Asked about the movie, she said, "I hated the ending! I'm totally disappointed!"

She wanted to know "what the heck is going to happen with the little guy and the ring. Does he throw it in?"

After she was told about the next two installments coming out soon, she shot her husband a look.

"I told you!" she exclaimed.

After she was asked if the first movie was good enough to make her come back to see the next two, she said, "Oh, yes."

She thought the New Zealand scenery was "beautiful" and wants to know what's going to happen with the little guy and the ring.

Dominguez said she would return to the Calexico theater to see the next two installments. She said the theater does a good job of showing the movies she wants to see.

"It's a very nice theater," she added.

Back at the front of the line, a couple on a date were getting ready to buy tickets for "Not Another Teen Movie."

The couple, Aaron Rodriguez of El Centro and Lizette Grijalva of Brawley, made the trek down to Calexico to see the movie because it wasn't playing in Imperial.

The manager of Imperial's multiplex said it is just not possible to compete with the number of movies Calexico is able to offer but she said her theater does offer later showings than the Calexico theater.

"Some people like to watch a movie after dinner," she said.

The Calexico complex's manager said Metropolitan cut back on evening showings and matinees recently because attendance wasn't high enough.

The manager is counting on construction of a restaurant and maybe some motels on land near the theater to help pick up business.

"What's going on with that? People are talking about an Applebee's," he asked.

After the holiday season, Calexico city staffers will apply for a Community Development Block Grant. If the staffers are successful in securing the funds from the state, the City Council could use the money to help build roads near the theater that would be used by patrons of an Applebee's restaurant and new motels.

The manager said if that happens and business improves, the company would be more willing to offer more show times.

The Movies will be expanding in the near future, possibly by 2004, according to the co-manager.

That would be just in time for the fourth Harry Potter movie and, maybe, "How High 2."

As for Brawley moviegoers, they might have to wait for two to three years before a theater is built in the North County.

City officials said developers are considering building a theater near the new San Diego State University-Imperial Valley campus in Brawley.

No deal has been finalized.

>> Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419 or

Imperial Valley Press Online Articles