'Charlie's Angels' First To Flit Across New Silver Screen

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Curtain up! Light the lights! Starting Nov. 3, you've got nothing to hit but the heights!

Especially if the big-screen version of "Charlie's Angels" is at the top of your list of must-see movies.

For better or worse, that's one of the six fall Hollywood releases now scheduled to grace the half-dozen screens of the new Sawmill Crossing cineplex when if all construction and equipment installations continue to go well it opens in five weeks, two days, and (approximately) 13 hours, 22 minutes and 42 seconds.

Because the major film studios have a habit of switching around fall- and holiday-film release dates as part of their marketing strategies, the current grand-opening slate is tentative.

But according to Brian Deveny, the president of the Arizona Theatre Owners Association and the manager of Payson's long-awaited multi-movie palace, it's a pretty sure bet that these are the celluloid gems you'll be lining up to see the first two weeks after the box office officially opens for business:

Nov. 3

"Charlie's Angels." Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz and Lucy Liu take over the lead roles in this movie version of the late, unlamented 1970s "jiggle" TV show. John Forsyth returns as the voice of Charlie, and Bill Murray, of all showfolk, plays Bosley, the femmes' immediate supervisor. Director: a fellow who goes by the name of "McG."

"Legend of Bagger Vance." Golf becomes the game of life in Robert Redford's adaptation of Steven Pressfield's novel, about a golfer (Matt Damon) who returns to the sport with some help from a mystical caddy (Will Smith) who guides him through more than just the perfect golf game. With Charlize Theron, Jack Lemmon, Peter Gerety, Lane Smith.

"Book of Shadows: Blair Witch II" A prequel to the original cheapo-cheapo home-made horror hit this time with stable camerawork and, it is rumored, an actual script. Starring Kim Director, Jeffrey Donovan, Tristen Skylar, Stephen Barker Turner. Directed by Joe Berlinger.

"Meet the Parents." Groom-to-be Ben Stiller meets his future in-laws (Robert DeNiro and Blythe Danner) for the first time, and the results are scarier than "Blair Witch I."

"Remember the Titans." Denzel Washington and Will Patton star as high school football coaches who are caught in the middle of integrating a small Virginia town's football team in 1971.

"Digimon: The Movie." Saturday-morning TV's first Pokemon/anime ripoff gets its own movie and, no doubt, plenty of merchandising and Happy Meal tie-ins.

Nov. 10:

"Red Planet." Pricey sci-fier with Val Kilmer as an astronaut who finds a whole lot more than moist rocks on Mars. And whatever the life form is, it's hungry. Co-starring Carrie-Anne Moss, Benjamin Bratt, Tom Sizemore, Terence Stamp, Simon Baker-Denny. Directed by Anthony Hoffman.

"Little Nicky." Comedian Adam Sandler is the son of Satan. That would explain all of his other movies. With Harvey Keitel, Patricia Arquette, Rodney Dangerfield. Directed by Steven Brill.

"Men of Honor." Cuba Gooding Jr., is the Navy's first black diver and Robert De Niro is his commander in this fact-based period drama. Co-starring Aunjanue Ellis, Charlize Theron. Directed by George Tillman Jr.

Off-screen pleasures

Of course, until the novelty of going from zero movie screens to six wears off, the Sawmill Crossing theater itself is bound to be as much or more of an attraction than the films it presents. And improvements to the original interior design are ongoing.

"We did upgrade the seats one more level from what we had originally planned," Deveny said. "They are now highbacked rockers with cupholder arm rests ... Instead of the plastic molded backs, which are durable but a little thin, these are laminate wood backs that look really, really nice and are very tough. You can feel the difference in your back when you sit in these seats.

"I thought they were full of beans when they told me that but as soon as you sit in one, you're going to think, 'Wow!'"

Although the two largest auditoriums are being equipped with digital sound systems, Deveny said, "I wouldn't say that digital sound would never be installed in" the other four. For one thing, he added, "The big thing two, three, five years from now will be digital projection. We have to be ready for that. "

Deveny is not yet certain when the projectors will be installed, but he does know when the screens will go up: "That's the very last thing you do. Movie screens are like dirt magnets, so you don't want to install them until you're done kicking up dust."

Smooth operation

Deveny's biggest surprise in this particular cineplex-construction project, he said, is how smoothly everything has gone thus far.

"I am absolutely shocked. Everything has been great: the construction, the different companies and vendors we've been dealing with ...

"There have been an awful lot of bankruptcies among theater chains lately AMC just closed its Chandler theater a week or so ago and they've brought all of their new construction to a halt. So you couldn't ask for a better time to build a theater, really, because a lot of these vendors are very hungry right now. They want the business, and they are bending over backwards for us."

Another plus, Deveny said, was developer George Harrison's recent decision to drop plans to build a competing four-screen movie theater inside the old Wal-Mart building.

If Harrison had moved forward with his plan, Deveny said, it would have created what is known in the film exhibition industry as "overscreening" when an area has more movie screens that the population can support.

It is a standard industry estimate that each screen, no matter where it goes up, requires a population of at least 5,000 to profitably support it. Despite Payson's current population of about 13,500 which, on paper, would support only two and a half screens the Sawmill Crossing developer, Kaibab Industries, Inc., chose to take Rim country's rapid growth rate into consideration, Deveny said.

Kaibab officials think the area will grow at a sufficient pace to support six screens, which require a 30,000 population, but 10 screens, which require a 50,000 population, would have been completely out of the question, Deveny said.

"I thought Mr. Harrison was being very wise. He said, 'I'd like a good fight, but I'm not stupid.' That's one of the smartest quotes I ever read. If that theater had been built, too, there would have been no winners. Everybody would have lost."

The most recent and nearest example of what can happen in the wake of small-town overscreening occurred in Sedona within the past few years, Deveny said.

"(Arizona theater owner) Dan Harkins went in there with seven screens when the town already had the (single-screen) Flicker Shack and the Cinedona Twin. Well, both of those theaters are now gone. Three screens were wiped out. And the seven screens are still more than enough for Sedona. The town still has to catch up to the theater."

In the meantime, Payson has just five weeks, two days, and (approximately) 13 hours and 19 minutes before it catches up with the rest of the movie-going world.

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