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

 

‘JOURNEY TO THE NORTH POLE’ Brings Snowy Cheer to Sin City


Holiday Drive-through Attraction Is A Labor of Love for COVID-impacted Artists…

While other cities were scrambling to adjust to life during a pandemic, Sin City wasted no time in launching COVID-safe alternatives. We already had drive-through wedding chapels and West Wind drive-in movie theater. Then came outdoor fitness and dance classes with Sin City celebrities. We even got to experience Jennifer Romas’ SEXXY revue and drag shows from the comfort of our vehicles. Now you can pack friends and family into the car and head to Santa’s workshop for JOURNEY TO THE NORTH POLE.

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Some of you might be familiar with GLITTERING LIGHTS, the annual attraction at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Now in its 20th year, the massive drive-through celebration is the largest of its kind in the Valley. It’s also about as far from the Strip as you can get while still being in Las Vegas.

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JOURNEY TO THE NORTH POLE is conveniently located at 2330 Industrial Road, just a snowball’s throw from Wynn/Encore under the watchful gaze of the Stratosphere The STRAT tower. During the rest of the year, the venue is known as The Industrial Event Space, an indoor-outdoor venue for special functions.

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While it may lack the scope of its older brother, JOURNEY TO THE NORTH POLE makes up for it for with plenty of charm and good cheer. You’ll know right away when you’re greeted at the gate by one of Santa’s friendly helpers. The happy elf will safely scan your pre-purchased admission code and guide you through the procedures while all of your party remain inside.

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A mask is required if/when you interact with any of the cast members, and your windows should remain up when possible. You’ll be given a radio station to tune to, which syncs seasonal classics with the lights of the attraction. Once inside, you’ll have the opportunity to purchase hot cocoa and snacks (very reasonably priced, by the way) before proceeding.

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The journey begins with a super-cool recreation of the Northern Lights. Once you pass through the garland entrance, you’ll enter the “Path Of Lights”, festooned with glittering orbs, twinkling tunnels and a flurry of “snow”.

Along the way you’ll encounter live dancing elves, whimsical projections, over 100,000 lights, more than 380 strands and over 100 holiday fixtures. Everything has been designed and handmade by more than 30 local creative professionals who’ve been impacted by the events of this year.

The centerpiece of JOURNEY is a computer-programmed “mega tree” which “dances” and blinks to holiday tunes. But of course everything leads to Santa’s Workshop, where you can visit with the big guy himself. Since the original Mr. Christmas is required to maintain distance this year, there won’t be any visits to his lap. But he’ll definitely chat it up and take notes for his gift-giving list.

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“Journey to the North Pole” can be experienced nightly from 5 to 10pm at the INDUSTRIAL event space, located at 2330 South Industrial Road, through Sunday, Jan. 3. Advance tickets are required and start at $20. Purchase at northpolelv.com/tickets. “Journey to the North Pole” is a co-production of Josh Abelson (the INDUSTRIAL event space), Emo Palumbo (Tag Team Productions) and Brian Rogerson (Sin City Scenic).

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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.