One of the refreshing things about Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss is that Billy (Sean P. Hayes) isn't spending all day and all night asking himself whether he's gay. He's spending all day and all night asking himself whether Gabriel (Brad Rowe)--the muscle-powered dreamboat he just met--is gay. Gabriel doesn't seem gay, whatever the hell that means. But Billy has a hunch. Or is it wishful thinking? An art photographer, he signs Gabriel up for a photo shoot and waits to see what develops. Written and directed by Tommy O'Haver, Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss is as light and fluffy as a feather boa--a gay Pillow Talk. And perhaps someday it'll seem as retrograde as Pillow Talk does today. But Hayes, who's been screaming up a storm on "Will & Grace," calms down just enough to make Billy a gay everyman, and Brad Rowe--who appears to be the bastard son of Brad Pitt and Rob Lowe, right down to the name--has what it takes to set hearts aflutter. Can he act? Does it matter? The column I wrote several weeks ago on Madison's movie scene raised a number of hackles (see Letters, page 15), and I'd like to both respond to those hackles and clarify my position on the various issues I brought up. First of all, I'm not excited about cup holders. On the contrary, I wrote in the column that I'd gotten a big laugh out of the news that theater executives consider them "one of the most groundbreaking innovations in movie-theater history." Second, I am excited about Madison getting an IMAX theater, but I'm not excited about converting the Orpheum Theatre. I simply feel that the Orpheum may have outlived its usefulness as an exclusive first-run movie house, and that converting it into an IMAX theater is as good as any of the other ideas I've heard about. Third, I think IMAX may represent the future of movies, but I don't hope it does. I love movies just the way they are. Fourth, the Overture Foundation is about to drop $50 million on Madison's arts community. I'd like to see some part of that go to film. James Kreul first salutes Isthmus for supporting the various campus film groups and then suggests we're not supporting them enough. All I can say is, we've made a huge effort to write about these movies (including my review of Underground in this column), despite the fact that relatively few of our readers go to see them. If my movie-scene column didn't delineate the exciting developments on campus, it's because I was trying to make the case for some sort of revival house as part of the Madison Art Center, funded by the Overture Foundation. Naturally, I didn't emphasize the groups that are already doing this kind of thing. I still like the idea of an institutionalized film component at the Madison Art Center, not unlike the one at New York's Museum of Modern Art. Film is a major part of this century's artistic heritage. Why not make it a bigger part of the Art Center's menu if there's money around to pay for it? I was pretty hard on the Orpheum and the Majestic, so I guess it doesn't surprise me that MeriJoy Endrizzi is "ticked off." For the record, I have been very impressed with Endrizzi's energy and enthusiasm since she took over management of the Orpheum, Majestic and Hilldale theaters. She may be right when she says that the Majestic has seen more improvements in the last year than in the previous 20, but that's my point. For too long, it was allowed to fall behind the other theaters, and I'm not sure the improvements Endrizzi mentions are enough to completely turn things around. It's not her fault. It may be nobody's fault. The movies shown at the Majestic are a hard sell, so there's not a lot of money to invest in improvements. The thing is, without those improvements, the movies are an even harder sell. I'd love to see the kind of business a state-of-the-art art theater would do in this town. Endrizzi says she doesn't mind being challenged by customers or the press to make improvements. I encourage her to keep up the good work. And, to quote Jack Nicholson in As Good As It Gets, I'll be the happiest man alive if that does it for me. I don't happen to require what Lyn Pilch calls her "total movie experience"--walking up State Street, holding hands with her sweetheart, etc. I mean, it sounds great, but notice she never gets around to mentioning the movie. I like beautiful chandeliers as much as the next person, but what I really want is good sound and a good picture. For perhaps understandable reasons, the Majestic and the Orpheum haven't always been delivering on those in recent years. But here's hoping we all somehow get what we want. I get good sound-and-picture quality. Pilch gets her chandeliers. Mary-Lang Sollinger gets her IMAX theater. For, ultimately, we all want the same thing out of the Madison movie scene. We want it to be as good as it can get.
Madison restaurateur Henry Doane has proposed buying the Orpheum and changing its programming to a combination of first-run and vintage films, a film festival and live performance. He says he would install a new sound system, which is music to my ears, but he estimates the cost of that sound system at $10,000 to $20,000. I suspect it will cost a lot more to give the Orpheum the sonic clarity of even an average multiplex theater, but I'd love to be wrong. As for Doane's programming ideas, it would be unfair for me to dream of a revival house in one paragragh and then stick my nose up at one in the next, but the revival house I had in mind would be a small screening room attached to the Madison Art Center, not a movie palace that seats 1,800. I'm afraid there are going to be a lot of empty seats, but hey, if the sound improves, I'll be sitting in one of them.