Laemmle Theatres and the Anniversary Classics Series present a 30th anniversary screening of director Joe Dante’s cinematic love letter to the movies and movie makers, ‘Matinee‘ (1993). The period comedy, set in that milestone movie year 1962, is a delightful homage to not only the movies, but also to the moviegoing experience and growing up in that era.
John Goodman stars as an independent filmmaker, Lawrence Woolsey, specializing in low-budget science fiction and horror movies who comes to Key West, Florida with his actress girlfriend (Cathy Moriarty) for a special premiere of his latest exploitation quickie, ‘Mant!’ Woolsey, who is also a huckster showman, brings his newest gimmick, “Rumble-Rama,” to the Saturday afternoon opening. The premiere coincides with the real-life fears of nuclear annihilation generated by the Cuban Missile Crisis unfolding as a backdrop. The movie within a movie, ‘Mant!’, is a clever parody morphing of the sci-fi horror cheapies of the 50s and early 60s, melding radioactivity paranoia with mad scientists and mutations. With a knowing screenplay by Charles S. Haas, including a subplot involving a budding teenage romance when a local teen (Simon Fenton), whose U.S. Navy father is called to duty during the Cuban crisis, falls for a high school classmate (Kellie Martin) with a very jealous boyfriend. The film climaxes at the vintage local movie theater in a mash-up of mayhem and affectionate moviegoing memories.
Dante cast a number of veteran actors, some of whom actually played in the movies he was sending up, including William Schallert, Dick Miller, Kevin McCarthy, and Jesse White as the theater owner, with Robert Picardo as the anxious theater manager who has a bomb shelter in the basement. Featuring writer–director John Sayles in a cameo, and one of the earliest screen appearances for future Oscar-nominated actress Naomi Watts.
Critics of the day fully embraced the film, with Roger Ebert calling it “a delightful comedy and one of the most charming movies in a long time.” Rita Kempley of the Washington Post cited it as “a funny, philosophical salute to B-movies and the B-movie moguls who made them. Dante looks back fondly on growing up with the apocalypse always on your mind and atomic mutants lurking under your bed.” In USA Today, Mike Clark was equally enthusiastic, writing, “Part spoof, part nostalgia trip and part primer in exploitation-pic ballyhoo, ‘Matinee‘ is a sweetly resonant little movie-lovers’ movie.”
Our special guest Joe Dante started his career in the late 70s, directing and sometimes writing and editing the kind of low budget genre films (‘Hollywood Boulevard,’ ‘Piranha’) that he enjoyed in his formative moviegoing years, before making a major critical and commercial breakthrough with 1981’s ‘The Howling.’ He followed that success with the classic horror comedy ‘Gremlins,’ with ‘Explorers,’ ‘Innerspace,’ ‘The ‘Burbs,’ ‘Gremlins 2,’ ‘Small Soldiers,’ and ‘Looney Toons: Back in Action’ among his subsequent credits.
Join us at 7 pm on Thursday, July 27 at the Royal in West Los Angeles for a special evening with Joe Dante and a screening of ‘Matinee.’ For added fun enjoy a trivia contest with prizes about the landmark movie year of 1962, which is arguably “the greatest year at the movies.”