Wednesday, October 21, 2009

I and Love and You and 700 Friends and The Avett Brothers

Well, The Avett Brothers lived up to my expectations.

Exceeded them, actually, with one of my favorite shows I've seen at the Englert. Alright, I'll admit I'm biased because I'm a big fan. Still, it's been quite awhile since I've seen a crowd so energized by a show in here, and with good reason - The Avett Brothers brought it.

With a style that was loose without being sloppy, forging elements of bluegrass, rock and pop music, and a stage presence that oozes confidence, the two brothers, a friend, and a guest cellist had the crowd on their feet for much of the night. Nicole Atkins and The Black Sea were perfect openers.

Check out the pictures here.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Sunday Night Pictures: The French Connection (1971), 10/4 @ 7 p.m.

First off, thanks to the Englert for bringing movies back! And, of course, for giving me the space to talk about some of my favorite movies. I hope these posts get you to come out each Sunday night to catch some old, and new, classics on the big screen, where they're meant to be enjoyed.

It's a privilege to kick off these introductions with William Friedkin's 1971 Best-Picture (and Actor, Screenplay, Editing, and Directing!) Oscar winner, The French Connection. To really appreciate this, we have to forget everything we've seen over the last 30 or 40 years or at least use this film to recognize where so many of today's cop-and-robber archetypes came from. TV shows like The Wire, Homicide, and even Law & Order (and its numerous spawn) have solidified the ground that The French Connection broke. Guys like Dirty Harry or films like Lethal Weapon couldn't have existed were it not for Gene Hackman's portrayal of real-life detective "Popeye" Doyle.

Police procedurals until The French Connection were much starker contrasts between the good guys and the bad guys. Doyle was the first cop who'd stop at nothing to collar the crook, including going outside the law, thus complicating our traditional notions of heroic behavior. "He isn't after the smugglers because they're breaking the law," Roger Ebert says, "he's after them because his job consumes him." Try not to think of Al Pacino's character in Heat. Doyle, all the way.

Again, all this is old hat now to 21st-century audiences. But Doyle isn't just the tough-on-crooks type. He's cruel to the innocent as well as those he's convinced are guilty. He's a racist bully who, at least when it comes to the heroin smugglers he eventually (and literally) brings down, is on the side of the angels. And we still haven't seen his like since.

Of course, no mention of the film can be made without the two-and-a-half minute nailbiter of a car chase under New York's West End, B-line train. (Check out the Trivia link at IMDb for some of the story behind this sequence.) It perfectly encapsulates Hackman's portrayal of Doyle's unstoppable nature.

(Un)fortunately, this YouTube clip is grainy and dark. You're just going to have to see the real thing on the big screen this Sunday night.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Movies return to the Englert this fall!

I am very excited to announce that movies are returning to the Englert screen this fall!

M.C. Ginsberg presents

This is something people have been asking for ever since the Englert re-opened in 2004, and thanks to the support of M.C. Ginsberg, we're finally able to make it happen. We have 11 movies lined up, spanning over 60 years of classic film.

Most of the movies are only five bucks at the door (no advance ticketing), and there should be a little something for almost everyone, including a special Family Day early showing of The Sound of Music in November (kids under 12 free!), and an end-of-semester showing of Napoleon Dynamite in December (only $1 for UI students).

All movies will be shown digitally via a DLP projector on our 30-foot screen. Drinks and snacks will be available.

Here is the complete lineup and details:

SEPT 6 - THE GRADUATE - 1967 - PG | 7 PM - $5 | Dustin Hoffman (in his first major film role) turns in a landmark performance as a naïve young man recently graduated from college who is seduced by a middle-aged neighbor (Anne Bancroft). He, in turn, falls in love with her daughter (Katharine Ross). Mike Nichols won a Best Director Oscar, and Simon and Garfunkel achieved immortality with a score that includes "Mrs. Robinson."

SEPT 13 - FIGHT CLUB - 1999 - R | 9 PM - $5 | An insomnia-stricken corporate drone (Edward Norton) meets roguish rebel Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) and together they form a cathartic but brutal underground society where men fight each other freely. But the line between reality and sleepless haze starts to really blur when propagandist Durden transforms Fight Club from a group of men rebelling against conformity into a nihilistic cult with greater malice in store. Helena Bonham Carter co-stars.

OCT 4 - THE FRENCH CONNECTION - 1971 - R | 7 PM - $5 | Jimmy "Popeye" Doyle (Gene Hackman), a foul-mouthed, violent narcotics detective, pursues a suave French drug dealer (Fernando Rey) through New York City with Captain Ahab-like zeal. Director William Friedkin took the provocative stance that both the narcs and the smugglers use similar thuggish ends to get what they need. This thrilling Best Picture Oscar winner (based on a true story) is famous for its riveting car-vs.-elevated-train chase.

OCT 18 - SUPER TROOPERS - 2002 - R | 9 PM - $5 | Bored, occasionally high and always highly ineffective Vermont state troopers Mac (Steve Lemme), Thorny (Jay Chandrasekhar, who also directed), Foster (Paul Stoter) and Rabbit (Erik Stohlanske) must prove their worth to Governor Jessman (Lynda Carter) -- or lose their jobs. After stumbling on a drug smuggling ring, they plan to make a high-profile bust, but the rival police of Earlville are out to steal the glory in this irreverent comedy. Don't miss the cast LIVE in Nov. 7th's Broken Lizard show!

OCT 25 - EVIL DEAD 2: DEAD BY DAWN - 1987 - R | 7 PM - $5 | Stranded in a cabin in the woods, Ash (Bruce Campbell) and his girlfriend accidentally invoke a spell that causes the Evil Dead to rise and kill! As a lone man pitted against hordes of walking corpses, can Ash survive until the safety of sunrise? Director Sam Raimi's whip-crack direction and Campbell's comedic skills induce hair-raising fear and gales of laughter.

OCT 31 - THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW - 1975 - R | MIDNIGHT - $15 - includes prop bag | Come to the lab, and see what's on the slab! This notorious horror parody -- a fast-paced potpourri of camp, sci-fi and rock 'n' roll, among other things -- tracks the exploits of naïve couple Brad (Barry Bostwick) and Janet (Susan Sarandon) after they stumble across the lair of transvestite vampire Dr. Frank-N-Furter (a brilliant Tim Curry). Co-presented by Riff Raff Theater.

NOV 8 - THIS IS SPINAL TAP - 1984 - R | 7 PM - $5 | This satire about a fictional heavy metal group named Spinal Tap spoofs nearly every facet of rock 'n' roll -- from vacuous modern songwriting to half-baked album promos to pyrotechnic concerts. Michael McKean, Christopher Guest and Harry Shearer portray the washed-up, aging British rockers whose tresses and egos outstrip their talent. Chronicling the band's evolution and its calamitous comeback tour is filmmaker Marty DiBergi (Rob Reiner).

NOV 15 - SAY ANYTHING - 1999 - PG13 | 7 PM - $5 | A budding romance between noble underachiever Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack) and high school valedictorian Diane Court (Ione Skye) is threatened when Diane's overly possessive, disapproving father (John Mahoney) interferes with their relationship. With a prized scholarship to study abroad hanging in the balance, Diane must find a way to make both men happy. Writer-director Cameron Crowe steers this 1980s teen flick into instant-classic territory.

NOV 22 - THE SOUND OF MUSIC - 1965 - G | 3 PM - $5 - KIDS UNDER 12 FREE! | The hills are alive with the sound of singing siblings and nuns! In Rodgers and Hammerstein's greatest collaboration, a feisty postulant named Maria (Julie Andrews) is sent to care for the unruly, motherless Von Trapp children. She soon tames them -- and finds herself falling for their stern father (Christopher Plummer). Oscar-winning director Robert Wise used stunning Austrian locations to transform the stage musical into a cinema classic.

DEC 6 - NAPOLEON DYNAMITE - 2004 - PG | 9 PM - $5 - UI STUDENTS ONLY $1 WITH ID! | This indie favorite follows Napoleon Dynamite (Jon Heder), a quirky, ninja-loving teenager growing up in the far reaches of Idaho. Napoleon's life gets complicated when his shady Uncle Rico (John Gries) shows up, a shy girl (Tina Majorino) starts showing him some attention & his best friend Pedro (Efren Ramirez) runs for school president.

DEC 20 - MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET - 1947 - NR | 7 PM - $5 | When Santa falls down drunk in the Thanksgiving Day Parade, reluctant Macy's supervisor Doris Walker (Maureen O'Hara) offers the job to a bearded Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn, who won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar) purporting to be the real Santa! During the Christmas season, he shares a flat with Doris's neighbor (John Payne), who has eyes for Doris. Kris hopes to unite the two while winning over Doris's skeptical 6-year-old daughter (Natalie Wood).

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Wizard of Oz visits the ICPL

Who says theater has to take place in a theater?

Last Thursday, over 136 community members participated in an interactive
THE WIZARD OF OZ storytime at the Iowa City Public Library. Actors from the upcoming production helped tell stories and play games, while library staff appeared in various costumes and led the entire audience down “the yellow brick road” through the library.

If you missed out on this event, don't worry -- you can still enjoy all of the great music, dance, and fun of
THE WIZARD OF OZ! Contact the Englert Box Office now to purchase your tickets.


Thursday, July 16th at 7:30 PM
Friday, July 17th at 2:00 and 7:30 PM
Saturday, July 18th at 2:00 and 7:30 PM
Sunday, July 19th at 2:00 PM



Photo: Audience members join the fun at a special THE WIZARD OF OZ storytime at the Iowa City Public Library. (Back row, left to right: Diana Upton-Hill, Melina Lagios, and Patrick Moyer. Front row: Henry and Frances Bottorff.)

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Power of Referral

This Thursday night's presentation by Joe Ehrmann just sold out within the last hour.

Joe who?

I had never heard of Joe Ehrmann... and my guess is that at least half of the sold-out audience hasn't heard of him, either. (This is unsubstantiated - just my feeling)

So why did they shell out twelve bucks and give up a Thursday evening to see him? Because Kirk Ferentz and Nate Kaeding told them to.

This event is backed by Kirk and Nate, as a fundraiser for the Children's Hospital of Iowa. For the last week, in all the papers, there's been talk of this event and the fact that Kirk and Nate are bringing him to the Englert.

Joe Ehrmann is a motivational speaker - a former football player who had a rough life, turned himself around, and now shares his story to inspire others who may be in a rough spot in their lives. I'm sure Joe will give a great presentation, the people who come will likely leave inspired, and the Children's Hospital will see the benefit in terms of dollars and cents. All in all, hard to argue that this is a solid event.

But had we (the Englert) booked Joe Ehrmann ourselves - without the support of Kirk Ferentz and Nate Kaeding - I doubt we'd even be halfway sold out right now. Same Joe Ehrmann, different result. The reason? The power of opinion leaders. Think Oprah's book club. Or a celebrity wearing a certain designer's gown to the Oscars. In this town, Kirk and Nate are celebrities - and when they talk, people listen.

The power of opinion leaders to influence the success of an event or business is huge, and should never be overlooked. The challenge for us is to find those opinion leaders for every event we have, so that when they talk - people will listen.

Congrats to everyone involved with this Thursday's event!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Englert Night Out

It's been a little busy around here, but I wanted to take a second to post some pics from last Thursday's Englert Night Out - our annual recognition party for donors and supporters. Around a hundred people turned out for good conversation, delicious desserts from a variety of area restaurants, and even a few awards.

As usual, Todd Adamson snapped some great photos. Check out the ones below, and see more here.

There's also a video below that I put together, sort of recapping the last year and giving a preview of events to come this fall (all of which go on sale Monday, June 15th, by the way)...

The other video I need to upload yet is of our Englert Impact Award winners: Christina Patramanis (volunteer) and Zephyr Printing (sponsor).

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Parking problems

Since the Englert opened in 2004, the City of Iowa City Parking Department has always offered Englert patrons a great deal in the city garages: four hours of parking for a buck when they present their ticket stub.

The City also was kind enough to let us issue free parking passes to some of our Friends of the Englert for the past couple of years.

Both of those programs are on hold for the time being, unfortunately. We're working with the City to get something going again, but until then, ticket stubs and "free parking" passes will not be accepted at City garages.

Truly sorry for the inconvenience, and we hope to have this worked out soon. Thanks for your patience, your continued patronage of the Englert, and for coming downtown Iowa City!