With a 21st-century nod to those opulent old-time movie palaces, the Majestic Ten opened last week in Williston. It's the largest venue of its kind in Vermont.
The Maple Tree Place multiplex has 1648 rocker seats in stadium-style rows set 44 inches apart from each other, allowing more leg room than even the spacious Roxy in Burlington. The new screens are immense: One measures 48 feet wide by 21 feet high. Add in the digital sound system and there's even more reason to look forward to the remake of The Stepford Wives opening June 11 and the sci-fi thriller I, Robot due out on July 16. The Majestic will specialize in mainstream fare.
The irony of all those size issues is that five decades ago Merrill Jarvis II, whose partner in this venture is Massachusetts-based Harold Blank, worked as a hardscrabble itinerant exhibitor. He traveled from one rural Vermont hamlet to another with a small portable screen, a projector and reels of celluloid in tow.
"I was 16 and going once a week to Williston, Hinesburg, Fairfax, Proctor and Rochester," Jarvis recalls. "The houses, mostly town halls, would be packed."
Blank, who has been in the movie-theater game since the early 1970s, sings his colleague's praises. "Merrill is one of those people who start off in menial jobs, like ushers, but develop themselves into entrepreneurs," he suggests.
Most of the original Hollywood studio moguls started as rag pickers. Here, the history of show biz may be happily intersecting with the history of Vermont.
If you missed the February sneak preview of Monsieur Ibrahim at the Key Sunday Cinema Club, not to worry. François Dupeyron's film is returning to the Roxy this weekend for a regular run. It's the sort of story that serves as a magic carpet ride to another place and time -- in this instance, Paris of the early 1960s.
Omar Sharif deftly portrays Ibrahim, a Sufi Muslim grocer in a picturesque red-light district. A French Jewish adolescent nicknamed Momo (Pierre Boulanger) also lives in the neighborhood with his distant, depressed father.
In a multicultural rapprochement that speaks to our era, Ibrahim becomes the confused Momo's mentor and surrogate dad. The lad has begun sexual experimentation with the local ladies of the night, after practicing a pickup line that translates as: "How much for a quickie?" But he is tormented by a far more treacherous romantic liaison with a seemingly innocent girl his own age. Momo is liberated when he and Ibrahim leave the City of Light for various more exotic locales, like Turkey, homeland of the title character.
Although hampered by occasional sentimentality and self-conscious mysticism, Monsieur Ibrahim offers an encouraging perspective on this troubled world. If an abandoned child can be healed by the kindness of a stranger from a strange land, maybe humanity isn't as doomed as it appears to be.
Wannabe sitcom stars might want to heed a casting call for "Windy Acres," a series set for an autumn debut on Vermont Public Television. Co-writer Jay Craven will direct the six half-hour episodes.
Shooting starts in June for this "fish-out-of-water tale" about a young businesswoman and single mother who moves from New York City to "bucolic Blodgett Village." She soon locks horns with French-Canadian dairy farmer Lucien LaFlamme, played by the ubiquitous Rusty Dewees. Sounds like a cross between "Northern Exposure" and "Green Acres."
Aspiring actors should send a headshot and resume by May 23 to producer Hathalee Higgs at Kingdom County Productions, 949 Somers Road, Barnet, VT 05821. Successful applicants will be asked to schedule an audition on May 8 in St. Johnsbury, which will also serve as the location for "Windy Acres."
The available roles include Laura, aged 50 to 65; April, 25 to 40; Titania, 16 to 19; Annika, 11 to 14; Uncle Garald, 50 to 65; a male banker, 30 to 60; a male named Turkey, 18 to 25; young Garald, 11 to 14; and a male or female marketing director, 30 to 60.
In the "oops" department, there were a couple of typos in last week's column item about the May 1 premiere of Joesquatch at the Sheraton: The phone number to call for more information is 233-6616 and AVA was directed by Jason Menon, not Jan Menon. Plus, the Website --www.burlingtonfilm
makers.com -- was omitted from the piece. Tickets are available at Pure Pop Records in Burlington.