John Lohmann: Dream Master of ‘The 35 Cinema’

Film enthusiast achieves lifelong desire to launch a Revival Movie House…


“To sleep, perchance to dream… for in this sleep what dreams may come…”  – William Shakespeare

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Rallying cries to never give up on your dreams – they’re the essence of nearly every high school graduation speech ever made. Yet when we venture forth into the real world, how many of us forget those goals that shaped our youth? Las Vegas resident John Lohmann never set his dream aside. Now, after the better part of four decades, it’s finally become a reality with The 35 Cinema.

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Mr. Lohmann and I are kindred spirits of a sort. We both have a passion for fantasy, horror and sci-fi films of the 70’s and 80’s. Our career paths somewhat intersected, as we were both movie theater managers who worked on marketing projects for major Hollywood releases. My tenure in the film exhibition industry was short, though, and John continues to pursue his passion.

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This week, John took a break from the challenges of running his retro-cool revival movie house to discuss his background with me. The conversation ended when he had to thread up a 35mm print of the 1979 classic ALIEN for a 6 pm showing. In that brief time, John shared some incredible memories, a stunning celebrity encounter, and an unusually difficult path to opening the doors of The 35 Cinema.

A Nightmare on Elm Street Fundraiser to Feature Live Stage Reading of Part  3: Dream Warriors | Dead Entertainment

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)

John’s career in movie theater operations began at the age of sixteen. His first recollection of threading a movie onto the massive projection system (an art unto itself) was for the 1987 hit A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. It’s unlikely that the teenager envisioned one day working side by side in his own theater with actress Lisa Wilcox. Ms. Wilcox is The 35 Cinema‘s manager and the “final girl” from both Elm Street Part 4: The Dream Master and Part 5: The Dream Child.

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As a youngster, Lohmann was entranced by the mechanics of movie projection. He had his own projector and used to charge his friend five cents to watch copies of Ken Films, short Super-8 editions sold for home use through the pre-VCR era of the 70’s. The reels were widely available at K-Mart (this writer had his own collection, a rear-projection viewer and an editing station).

In the 90’s, the movie enthusiast covered a lot of ground. He worked in various capacities for AMC Theaters, Regal, Globe, and the Century brand, which operates Cinemark theaters in the Las Vegas valley. He also branched out into attractions at Knott’s Berry Farm and Disney parks. 

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It’s was John’s passion for the movie-going experience that served him well in marketing. He received the highest levels of recognition and won prestigious accolades (including the Sid Grauman Award), for his promotions of such varied titles as The Peacemaker (with Nicole Kidman and George Clooney), Deep Impact, family films The Rugrats Movie, its sequel Rugrats In Paris, Barnie’s Big Adventure, Disney hits Mulan and Hercules…and a low-profile sleeper called TITANIC

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Perhaps John’s most incredible experience was when he attended a pre-release screening of the 1998 fantasy What Dreams May Come. A difficult-to-watch, emotional exploration of death and the afterlife, the film presented a considerable challenge to its marketing team. Lohmann was invited to attend an advance screening in order to serve as a consultant and advisor for marketing.

What Dreams May Come (1998 / Polygram) | KlaatuCarpenter | Flickr

The humbled guest entered the theater along with the movie’s creative team. He noticed that each seat came supplied with a box of tissues. If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll understand why. 

When the lights came up, John was dabbing his eyes with tissues when he felt a pair of hands grip his shoulders from behind. Then an unmistakable voice asked “What did you think?”. Spinning around, the sobbing cinephile found himself face to face with the film’s star, Robin Williams.

What Dreams May Come - Movies on Google Play

Robin Williams and costar Annabella Sciorra…

The two gentlemen spent the better part of the next three hours discussing the emotionally-complex feature. As John recounted, Williams was absolutely thrilled by the project. “I love comedy, but acting is what I really want to do” the legendary entertainer proclaimed.

Lohmann came up with a few ideas to promote the drama, which garnered over $75 million at the box office. As for Williams’ dramatic career, it continued to expand with wildly diverse roles in Bicentennial Man, Patch Adams, the frightening One Hour Photo and Christopher Nolan‘s Insomnia

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While immersed in the worlds of film marketing, theme park entertainment, and becoming involved in animation art collecting, the Anaheim native was always looking for the perfect place to open his own revival movie theater. The search stretched through roughly four decades. At one point, Lohmann thought he’d finally found the perfect spot, a four-plex that had been abandoned for a decade. It was in poor shape, smelled badly, and had become a refuge for the homeless.

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Abandoned cineplexes await rebirth in a post-pandemic world…

Nevertheless, the cavernous grand lobby of the movie house was too gorgeous to ignore. Lohmann was all set to commit when a second-run (discount) chain swooped in to snatch it. Sadly, their endeavor lasted only a few months, but by that time, John had moved on.  Yet he never stopped looking for the perfect venue.

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Ira Heiden (left) in Elvira, Mistress of the Dark…

In the years since that first showing of Nightmare On Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors, the horror franchise has become a permanent part of Lohmann’s life. He personally befriended most of the movie’s cast, and even became best buddies with actor Ira Heiden, who played Will Stanton aka “Wizard Master”. 

Nightmare on Elm Street 3 Cast Recreate Iconic Dream Warriors Photo

Elm Street 3 cast recreates iconic “Dream Warriors” photo in 2017

Fast forward to the current decade. As of 2017, virtually every theater has switched to digital equipment. Traditional projection systems were being discarded and replaced around the world. John happened upon a working set-up at Long Beach State University that was in jeopardy. After a little back-and-forth with those in charge, he was given a matter of hours to remove it from the campus.

For the next few years, this marvelous monster resided in a breezeway of its new owner’s California home, covered by a tarp and patiently waiting for an eventual return to usefulness. It joined John’s other treasure, a rare stereo 16mm system that came from a defunct Jerry Lewis Cinemas location in Georgia. 

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Eventually, John packed up his dreams and possessions (and of course, those two beloved projectors) and relocated to Las Vegas. They can now be found at The 35 Cinema inside The Nerd, a heavily-themed downtown fun spot for adults. You can read all about The 35 Cinema right here in this Vegas Unfiltered Blog companion piece. 

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It would be a disservice to the efforts of John and his team to close this piece with “they all lived happily ever after”.  Getting that first movie onto the screen was anything but easy. The venue should have opened nearly a year ago, but a series of obstacles kept falling into its path. And that’s not even factoring in the pandemic. 

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The 35 Cinema debuted in February 2021, and even now, difficulties arise. A highly-anticipated booking of 1977’s original STAR WARS promised to put hundreds of fans into the plush new seats, but a delivery problem forced the owner to remove it from the schedule. Lohmann is working to find a more reliable source for quality vintage titles on 35mm film, and each week provides new opportunities to challenge the boyishly handsome businessman.

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Fortunately, our city is overflowing with enthusiastic moviegoers. Thousands have flocked in the past year to West Wind drive-in for classic hits (albeit in digital form) and William Powell‘s The Sci-Fi Center in historic Commercial Plaza enjoys huge turnouts for drive-in style “Carpool Cinema” screenings of older titles.

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Now that Elm Street actress Lisa Wilcox is managing The 35 Cinema, its owner’s immersion into the dream world of Freddy Krueger is complete. And with our supportive community to rally around the newest Las Vegas cinema experience, it’s only a matter of time before ambitious John Lohmann, an honorary member of the Elm Street gang, ascends from “Dream Warrior” to the “Dream Master” of his own realm.

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The 35 Cinema is located at 450 Fremont Street, Suite 250, on the second floor of NEONOPOLIS. It is open Wednesday through Sunday. Click here for showtimes and to order tickets. 

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Photos: Sam Novak, John Lohmann, The 35 Cinema, The Sci-Fi Center (William Powell). Elm Street 3 cast reunion photo by Rodney Eastman

Relive Your Hollywood Favorites The Authentic Way at ‘The 35 CINEMA’

Downtown movie theater shows classic titles on vintage film projectors as they were meant to be seen…


It’s been more than two decades since digital technology transformed the way we enjoy music and movies. Crystal-clear sound and perfect projection are now the norm…yet to many, something is missing. Gone are the analog hiss of cassette tapes and the distinctive clacking of film projector gears. Who could forget the circular “bleep” that signaled the change of movie reels….or the way an audience would moan on the rare occasion when a movie jammed and melted onscreen?

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Yes, we’ve become bored with perfection…there’s just nothing nostalgic about it. That’s why vinyl records and turntables have roared back with a vengeance. An MP3 file can’t provide beautiful album cover artwork or the tactile experience of putting a needle on the record.

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The same holds true for our movie-going excursions. Since this past year, there’s been a nationwide resurgence in the drive-in theater, where social distancing is built in. With only a few new films in release, indoor and outdoor theaters have been featuring 80’s classics like GREMLINS, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, ET, BACK TO THE FUTURE, THE GOONIES and more.

Parents are enjoying the rare opportunity to share those timeless hits on the big screen with their own children, while reliving the days when flickering lights and film imperfections were part of the cinematic experience.

But the original styles of movie-making and projection are having a comeback, too. Powerful directors like Christopher Nolan and Quentin Tarantino regularly use genuine film stock for their pictures, and even the new WONDER WOMAN 1984 was shot entirely on film. There’s a warmth to analog methods that modern technology can’t duplicate.

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Alas, finding a theater that can project a movie from actual film reels is a near-impossibility. As a former manager (in the 90’s) for the AMC Theaters chain, I spent many hours learning the in’s and out’s of assembling a print (splicing the many individual reels into a completed film), changing expensive xenon lamps, and learning how to thread the complex “platter system”. It’s intricate work…and there’s nothing like it. 

The expensive conversion to digital technology led many independent theaters to permanently shutter, and caused standard 35 millimeter projectors to all but disappear. A few cinemas still hold onto IMAX-film and 70 millimeter workhorses to placate the demands of certain directors, but they’re few and far between. That leaves countless copies of vintage 35mm prints just sitting in vaults, yearning to be rediscovered and shown in their original format.

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Fortunately for Las Vegas visitors and residents, downtown fun spot The Nerd expanded their footprint in early February to open The 35 Cinema. The 35 Cinema is the only movie theater in the state to strictly use traditional, analog film projection. Their main 35mm projector handles all of the Hollywood blockbusters, while a secondary system is designed for the rare 16mm print.

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According to owner John Lohmann, The 35 Cinema is also the only commercial theater in the world to have its projector inside the auditorium. The concept is the culmination of a dream that’s spanned two decades. Watching the projectionist thread the film, boot up the bulb and dim the house lights becomes part of the show. And once again, those mechanical sounds just amplify the mood.

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The manager of The 35 Cinema is actress Lisa Wilcox, with whom this writer spent many hours in darkened theaters. Ms. Wilcox starred as “Alice” in A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4: The Dream Master, my absolute favorite of the series (I saw it eight times). Her character survived to take the lead in Part 5. I was fortunate enough to meet this dynamic woman at RIO Hotel Casino a few years back. Las Vegas is lucky to have her.

Ms. Wilcox and her 80’s horror-film career might have a bit of an influence on The 35 Cinema‘s programming. This week, the revival house is showing pristine copies of ALIEN (1979) and THE SHINING (1980). Previous titles have included THE FINAL TERROR (starring Vegas resident Adrian Zmed), BEWARE! THE BLOB, and PHANTOM OF THE OPERA with Robert Englund.  Upcoming classics include TRON (1982), STAR WARS (1977), THE MATRIX and 2001:A SPACE ODYSSEY.

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Being located within THE NERD gives The 35 Cinema two distinct advantages. First, its entrance is through the bar, so all audience members must be 21 years or older (no disruptive children to ruin the cinematic experience!). Secondly, THE NERD is devoted to fans of fantasy, science fiction and horror. So, your fellow viewers are kindred, ready to blast off with you on a shared adventure.

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Along with the films, patrons can expect a variety of special events in the months ahead. There will be celebrity appearances and Q & A sessions with people involved in the films being presented. Actor/director Oliver Robins (“Robbie” in the Poltergeist series) recently attended a screening of POLTERGEIST 2.

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Despite being located inside the massive Neonopolis entertainment complex on Fremont Street, The 35 Cinema is a passion project that evokes feelings of a small town movie house. Reproductions of famous movie posters adorn the walls and a small, charming snack bar/gift shop serves up hot popcorn, cold drinks and a variety of snacks. There are plenty of autographed photos around, too, which I suspect might be from Ms. Wilcox’s private collection.

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Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at the theater or online here. So grab your light saber, gather your friends, and head back to the future for a retro-cool time at the movies. Titles change weekly and are subject to studio availability. Click here for show schedule.

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The 35 Cinema is located inside THE NERD at 450 Fremont Street, second level of NEONOPOLIS. Call (702) 575-8486 or visit them online at https://the-35-cinema.ticketleap.com. Click here to read this article’s companion piece of The Cinema 35’s owner John Lohmann.

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Photos: Sam Novak and THE NERD/The 35 Cinema via Facebook

 

October Horror-Fest at Las Vegas Drive-in Theater

Retro outdoor theater screens dozens of spooky comedies, bloody shockers and romantic chillers for safe Halloween fun…

The effort to successfully reopen indoor theaters has been such a struggle that eleven movie theaters in the Las Vegas valley closed once more this month. Some, like Eclipse Theaters in the downtown area and Tropicana Cinemas, a second-run bargain house, never unlocked their doors. Nevertheless, West Wind Drive-ins have been thriving!

West Wind Las Vegas is one of seven in California and Nevada operated by their parent company. I told you about this six-screen outdoor theater here. With budget-friendly prices on tickets and snacks, you can pack up the family (or a hot date) into your car and have a fun night out without breaking the bank. Even better, physical distancing is NEVER a concern at a drive-in, since you’re in control of your environment. You don’t have to interact with anyone if you choose not to (online ticketing is coming soon). 

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Modern conveniences like digital picture and stereo FM sound enhance the movie-going experience. Snacks and meals can be ordered from your smartphone for quick pick-up at the concession stand. You can smoke, bring your own food, turn up the volume as loud as you like on your car’s sound system and chat about the movie if you want to. It’s your own private universe under the stars.

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All of those advantages are why the drive-in theater has surged in popularity this year. Not only has the retro concept become a place to rediscover classics on the big screen, but locations around the country have been showing new concerts and hosted comedy and drag shows. Even Jennifer Romas and the cast of Westgate’s SEXXY revue performed drive-in shows this summer at a special location.

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COVID-19 is still affecting seasonal activities like sporting events and holiday parties. Depending on your neighborhood, even trick-or-treat might not happen. But nothing is tastier than freshly-buttered movie popcorn, and you can still dress the kids (or yourself) in costumes to see a great Halloween hit, double-feature, or even a trilogy….all for one low price.

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From now through October 31st, West Wind is lighting up their six massive screen with dozens of horror titles. From franchise hits of the 80’s to the latest spooky titles. there’s something for EVERYONE.

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Click here for the latest schedule, and check back often. 

Family-friendly Spookers – 

Romantic Vampire Films – 

Franchise Horror Films – 

Tim Burton Favorites – 

John Carpenter Classics –

Low-Budget Shockers –

Big-Budget Titles –

Groundbreaking Classics –

There are plenty more films to be added to the list, and the festival runs through Halloween night. Click here for updates, and check back often. 

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West Wind Las Vegas Drive-in Theater is open year-round, rain or shine. They’re located at 4150 West Carey Avenue, northwest of downtown. Call  (702) 646-3565 OR (702) 647-1379 for more information.