3 stars

Going Attractions: The Definitive Story of the Movie Palace (2019)

  • Documentary Feature/Official Selection
  • 85 Minutes/USA, Australia/2019
  • History
  • Director: April Wright

Premise: “Going Attractions” celebrates the splendor and grandeur of the great cinemas of the United States, built when movies were the acme of entertainment and the stories were larger than life, as were the venues designed to show them.

Going Attractions is a pleasant love letter to independent theaters and movie palaces of old. It should come as no surprise to find out that my favorite thing in the world is to go to the movies. So I was obviously the prime audience this particular film at HIFF. I was engaged throughout it and found the content very interesting. Although I had some slight qualms with the film overall, I found the subject and presentation very appealing.

The documentary has an impressive group of people for the talking heads segments who all have interesting insights into the subject matter. Most notably, film critic and historian Leonard Maltin appears in the film and delivers some historical context for the subject matter. Jerald Gary, with the Avalon New Regal Theatre in Chicago, provides audiences with a window into the modern day movie palace and the struggles that go into operating it.

The documentary presents the history of film and movie palaces in a chronological, information-heavy format. This method of information delivery came across as a little bit dry in parts, but the wealth of archival footage and photography from the heyday of movie palaces helped hold my interest in the content. As someone who appreciates and loves the subject matter in this documentary, I was really taken by the sheer amount of footage compiled for this project.

However, while I found the overall subject matter interesting, there were moments where I wish the filmmakers would have expanded more on specific topics. For example, the documentary details what’s needed to restore one movie palace and how much it would cost. This comes very late in the film and I wish the filmmakers would have gone into more specifics about how much work goes into restoring the palaces today. In another segment earlier in the film, we learn of a fight in the late 1970s to save Radio City Music Hall from closing. Unfortunately, this segment felt a little too anecdotal to me and I wish it would have been expanded upon as it was a very interesting piece of history.

Nevertheless, the subject of the documentary is obviously in my wheelhouse and I enjoyed the romantic tone it struck regarding the history of film and the movie palaces. The archival footage and photography is stunning and the historical context provided by the film’s subjects were enough to keep me satisfied and engaged. I found myself truly yearning to go back to when these palaces were at their height.

On that note, Going Attractions: The Definitive Story of the Movie Palace is screening twice at Heartland Film Festival. If you are reading this before its first showing and you’re interested in seeing it, I implore you to see it at The Historic Artcraft Theatre in Franklin, Indiana on October 16th. The Artcraft is a beautiful theater run by wonderful people and I can’t imagine a more fitting place to enjoy this specific documentary.

Showtimes at HIFF28

  • Wednesday, Oct. 16 – 5:30pm – The Historic Artcraft Theatre 
  • Friday, Oct. 18 – 10:10am – AMC Castleton Square 14

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