Red carpet film premieres don't usually take place in mall cineplexes, or New Orleans for that matter, but such events are becoming more common since a Louisiana tax credit program helped attract major studios to shoot on location throughout the state. Scenes from The Expendables, the current action adventure film starring Sylvester Stallone, Mickey Rourke and Bruce Willis, were shot in New Orleans, and some bayou locations substituted for tropical settings. The film's Aug. 5 local premiere at The Theatres at Canal Place came a week before its national release.
With its recently completed conversion to a collection of upscale screening rooms, The Theatres at Canal Place increased the options for local theatergoers. The New Orleans area has a range of venues besides suburban megaplexes, including an arthouse theater, an old neighborhood theater and film festivals.
The Theatres at Canal Place's (The Shops at Canal Place, 333 Canal St., 581-5400; www.thetheatres.com) renovation follows a concept becoming popular in New York and California. It has several screening rooms, each with comfortable leather chairs in stadium-style formation and waiter service from Gusto, a cafe in the mall specializing in wine, tapas and primped concessions. Arriving early is recommended for patrons interested in dining. There's a full bar, and the age limit is 18 years and older. It screens the latest Hollywood releases.
New Orleans' sole remaining neighborhood theater is the Prytania Theatre (5339 Prytania St., 891-2787; www.theprytania.com), which last year hosted a red carpet local premiere for The Blind Side, parts of which were filmed locally. It has only one screen and typically runs major Hollywood releases. Smaller budget, indie-style films occasionally sneak into the mix, there are classic movie matinees, midnight movies, and it's a sometimes the venue for special screenings by the New Orleans Film Society (www.neworleansfilmsociety.org).
The film society's annual film festival runs October 14-21. Schedules and venues have not yet been announced, but the festival always includes feature films and feature-length documentaries; live-action, animated and experimental short films; a showcase for local filmmakers; plus parties, seminars with directors and industry people, and more.
Chalmette Movies (8700 W. Judge Perez Drive, Chalmette, 304-9992) reopened in early August with six screens. The former Chalmette Movies 9, along with the rest of St. Bernard Parish, was destroyed when levee failures left it underwater after Hurricane Katrina. It reopened in early August with Exit Through the Gift Shop, a film about British graffiti artist Banksy, but its regular schedule will focus more on the latest Hollywood films. There will be some independent films in the mix. Friday features the debut of Piranha 3D.
Offering the greatest variety of films, almost none of them from Hollywood, is Zeitgeist Multi-Disciplinary Arts Center (1618 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd., 827-5858; www.zeitgeistinc.net). For more than two decades, it has hosted the most diverse possible array of features, documentaries and experimental and art films from around the globe, as well as punk and experimental jazz concerts, improv comedy, performance art events and oddities like the Sex Workers Art Show tour. Current films include the award-winning documentary The Oath, about two Jihadists who served Osama Bin Laden, and the bizarre Greek film Dogtooth, about a cultish family. It hosts the New Orleans Middle Eastern Film Festival Nov. 26 through Dec. 5. The low-frills venue offers some couch seating and a small selection of exotic snacks from an international grocery, adding a little flavor to its already eccentric appeal.