Bryan Cranston moderates a questions and answer session with Jonah Hill following a viewing of “The Wolf of Wall Street.”
By Leighton Ginn
I will always have a soft spot for independent movie theaters, so when Cinemas Palme D’Or announced it will close, it was emotional for me.
I grew up near the University of Arizona, and on campus it had the New Loft Cinemas. Much like Cinemas Palme D’Or, the Loft showed a wide array of movies. Some popular and in the major theaters, others of the art-house fare.
So when I was about 10 or so, maybe even younger, I would walk to the Loft with my brother Nathan, and we would catch different movies. I remember seeing a bunch of Woody Allen movies, even though I didn’t understand what they were talking about.
I think at that age, “Annie Hall” was my favorite because of the animated scene with Woody and the Wicked Stepmother.
I also remember watching “Taxi Driver,” and it was nothing like the television show “Taxi.” I think I slept through most of the movie, but woke up for the violent climax, which I was much too young for.
In fourth grade, I caught the “Rocky Horror Picture Show.” My friend loved it much more than me, so much that he would sing the songs in class. Even at that young age, I thought it was weird when my friend dressed as Frank-N-Furter and sang “Sweet Transvestite” in front of the class. It was a progressive school.
Going to these movies were fond memories for me and my brother. We have very different personalities, so this was one of the few things we had in common.
When Cinemas Palme D’Or opened, the big draw was they had question and answer sessions with the stars or movie makers.
It was a chance to meet some big celebrities, most of all, Bryan Cranston. When he was the moderator for some Q&A’s, I showed up with a bag of blue candy that’s supposed to look like Blue Sky, the nickname of the drugs his character Walter White made in the television series “Breaking Bad.”
He was nice enough to humor me.
It was an opportunity to meet a lot of great stars, like Aaron Paul and Jonah Hill. It was also cool to say my neighborhood theater is owned by Walter White.
But Cranston wasn’t the sole owner. I also got to know Steve Mason, of ESPN radio in Los Angeles. Many times, Mason would moderate the Q&As until he got busier in Los Angeles.
About three years ago, my brother Nathan moved with me in Palm Springs to get a restart on his life after taking care of our parents.
So we got to go to Cinemas Palme D’Or. Because Nathan wanted to be a media professional, he decided to film some of these Q&A’s and post them on YouTube.
Nathan also got to meet Cranston, as well as other great stars like Bob Odenkirk (“Better Call Saul”), Oscar Isaac (“The Force Awakens”), Will Forte (“Last Man Standing”) and Oscar winner Brie Larson (“Room”).
I couldn’t go to all the Q&As, but Nathan was there for just about all of them. He got to know Mason, and after a while, it seemed like everyone at the theater, as well as the regulars.
Bill Feingold, the popular radio host on KNews94.3 in the Palm Springs area, was another great moderator who got to know Nathan pretty well. Kay Shackleton, a local entertainment writer who also authors the P.S. Movie Gal blog among other endeavors, became an incredibly good friend of Nathan as well.
While getting her credentials to the Oscars, she brought Nathan along with her to experience a bit of the hoopla.
I was really grateful for them, because Nathan was moving away from everything he knew when he came here, and Cinemas Palme D’Or gave him a community to be apart of.
A year ago at this time, Nathan had a heart episode that led to him falling into a coma. It will be a year in June when he passed away.
I had spent a month by his side before he passed away. It was tough always having to deal with doctors and making decisions. Two days after Nathan passed away, I had gone to Cinemas Palme D’Or. As much as I was grieving, I also needed some kind of escape.
When I was there, Bill Feingold had heard about Nathan and made an announcement prior to the film.
That moment meant a great deal to me. Bill told me afterwards he tried not to cry. I was the same.
I was in Seattle when I heard the news Cinemas Palme D’Or would be closing. It was unexpected, and surprising. But they had been trying to fight to get more mainstream films at the theater and the lawsuit was getting more and more expensive.
I wish there were more theaters like Cinemas Palme D’Or, not less. If it weren’t for their Q&A’s, I likely wouldn’t have gone out of my way to watch some of those films.
But most of all, it created a community that meant a lot to me, as well as several other people.
So thank you to Cranston, Mason, the rest of the owners, staff and fans of Cinemas Palme D’Or. You will be missed, but the memories are incredibly fond.