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Instead of Bad Movies, Cinema Shows None

The owner gives workers a paid vacation and closes for two weeks to protest `lousy material.'

September 29, 2006|Bob Secter | Chicago Tribune

HOOPESTON, Ill. — The "closed" sign went up a few weeks ago on the flashy neon marquee outside the Lorraine Theatre, but the 84-year-old movie palace on Main Street hasn't played its last picture show. Business isn't bad. It's the movies that are wretched.

"Both theaters in Hoopeston are closed ... because of such poor film choices available," explains a recording on the Lorraine's customer hotline. "Go to Danville to see 'Jackass 2.' "

Lorraine owner Greg Boardman put his two screens on hiatus rather than sell tickets to the gross-out and freakout fare he said Hollywood distributors had made available in recent weeks. Boardman said he'd rather show nothing than such recent offerings as "Beerfest," "The Covenant" or the "Jackass" sequel, which topped the nation's box office last week despite being panned by critics.

"There's just so much lousy material out there -- people vomiting on the screen," said Boardman, 52, who grew up watching movies in the Lorraine and now runs the business from Northern California. "I have one of the finest sound systems in the world, and I don't want to waste it on such drivel."

When the town got its break from Hollywood, so did the Lorraine staff: two paid weeks off.

The protest ends today, when the Lorraine resumes operation with the new animated children's movie "Open Season" as well as Disney's recently released football movie, "Invincible."

This isn't a crusade launched by a G-rated puritan. The Lorraine has featured its share of R-rated fare, including "Brokeback Mountain" and "Miami Vice." And there are plenty of action movies, the better to show off the rippling eight-channel digital sound system, a top-of-the-line feature rare even in big cities.

The Lorraine, opened in 1922 as a vaudeville house, was purchased in 1987 by Boardman, who repaired and reopened it.

In a business dominated by nationwide chains, Boardman is a small fry. But he says that keeps the business fun and gives him the freedom to do what he wants -- including making his screens dark.

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