April 19, 2013 at 1:38 PM

Hooray for George!: Local ‘Game of Thrones’ Author George R.R. Martin Acquires Jean Cocteau Cinema

"I can’t see how this could fail, especially if George R.(aymond) R.(ichard) himself is making the popcorn"

By Casey St. Charnez

Media Rare

Casey St. Charnez has been video editor for Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide since 1986 and buyer for Lisa Harris' Video Library since 1981. He likes Lisa, cats, crosswords, and the Metropolitan Opera, probably in that order.

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Jean Cocteau exterior Photo: cinematreasures.org

The unexpected and totally refreshing news that Santa Fe-based author George R. R. Martin has bought the long-fallow Jean Cocteau Cinema is the local moviegoing breakthrough the north side has been waiting for, and for years.

Many moons ago, the property at 418 Montezuma was home to the Collective Fantasy (1976-83), run by a quadripartite coalition of astute film lovers who—along with the City Lights theater (1979-86), mom-and-popped by Bill and Judy Hill, in the then-Pen Road Shopping Center—were the first to bring art-house cinema to town.

In 1984, transplanted Oklahoman Brent Kliewer luxuriously revamped the CF site, transforming it into the revered Jean Cocteau Cinema (1986-2006), which later became part of Richard Brandt’s Trans-Lux exhibition empire.

Since the JCC closed, the building briefly housed the abortive New Mexico Film Museum, with infrequent screenings now dried up altogether. No movies have been shown there in several years.

That’s all about to change.

George and Parris Martin

Martin, currently the Southwest’s most famous and least visible writer—due to his considerable “Game of Thrones” fame—and his wife Parris, have remained somewhat close-mouthed about their plans. No official new theater moniker has yet been announced, nor date of opening, nor philosophy of title programming, nor even potential offerings at the snack bar. 

However it may turn out, the enterprise still will be far worthier than any boondoggle the Railyard Co LLC wants to foist on the citizenry.

As widely reported, the RC wants to fill that gaping hole with a Violet Crown multiplex out of Austin. Earlier this week, the Railyard board publicly kicked stalwart Maya Cinemas chief Moctesuma Esparza in the ego, then showed him the door. Too bad, as Esparza has been a friend to New Mexico for 25 years, ever since he co-produced “The Milagro Beanfield War” with Robert Redford. 

Regal Entertainment, which currently operates 20 screens here (6 at DeVargas Center, 14 at the Stadium), desperately needs to upgrade its sad DeV installation, but has yet to step up to the plate. Maya is toast. So Violet Crown’s proposed 11-screener is the heir apparent to the downtown market.

But Martin’s single-screen theater, while no spoiler, will be a film buff magnet no matter what else goes into the Railyard (preferably nothing, if you ask me). His name alone piques curiosity, followed by attendance. I can’t see how this could fail, especially if George R.(aymond) R.(ichard) himself is making the popcorn.

That alone would be worth the price of admission.

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