In a speech at last night's private grand opening party for downtown's new Sundance Cinemas, Mayor Annise Parker expressed sentiments echoed by many Houstonians, saying, "When the [Angelika Theater] closed its doors, it was like a light went off downtown."
The Mayor felt the Angelika's sudden and unexpected closure left a gaping hole in the Houston arts scene, and reached out to real estate developer Ed Wulfe to bring quality film back to downtown. According to Parker, there were many interested parties, but in the end only the Robert Redford-helmed art house theater chain offered the independent, foreign and art cinema programming deemed necessary to fill the void. And for Sundance Cinemas President and CEO Paul Richardson, a University of Houston alum and former Montrose resident, opening a Houston location presented a chance to "see my old friends."
The gathering was the second of two extremely well-attended private fundraising events held at the Bayou Place location this week, with ticket sales from Monday evening benefiting the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston Film Department and the Houston Cinema Arts Society, and last night's proceeds going toward The Montrose Counseling Center, The Galveston Bay Foundation and the Redford Center. Partygoers packed into the lobby and spilled out onto the patio, sampling the theater's upscale, epicurean cuisine and movie-inspired cocktails like "A Pink Lady" (My Week with Marilyn) and "The Animal" (The Muppets). Around 8 p.m. the crowd was offered popcorn -- with real butter -- and the opportunity to see a movie in one of the eight newly revamped theaters.
Neither Robert Redford nor his son James were in attendance either night, but the elder thanked Parker and Wulfe and expressed excitement over Sundance Cinemas' third location in Houston via a short video filmed on the set of his latest cinematic endeavor, The Company You Keep. Redford also announced an upcoming Sundance Film Festival USA screening on January 26, 2012, when a film and filmmaker will be transported from Park City, Utah, to Houston mid-festival for a special presentation of their film and a Q+A session, and then returned to the Festival in time for the awards ceremonies.
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The new Bayou Place theater opens its doors to the general public today and will be showing Martin Scorcese's Hugo in 3D, Warner Herzog's Into the Abyss, Lars Von Trier's Melancholia, Clint Eastwood's J. Edgar, My Week with Marilyn featuring Michelle Williams and Kenneth Branagh, Philippe Le Guay's Women on the 6th Floor, Bill Condon's Twilight: Breaking Dawn and Disney's The Muppets. Showtimes and ticket information are available online.