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A&E

A strange little indie movie house

Spending a day at the Hilton’s Giordano Theatre

Image
Reach for Me

Casino Guide

Las Vegas Hilton
3000 Paradise Road
732-5111

At 10:45 a.m. on the Sunday before Memorial Day, Angelo Giordano sits outside his namesake screening room, ready to welcome customers to the Giordano Theatre. Unfortunately, this morning's only customer is me, about to embark on a full day of movies via Giordano's $30 day-pass offering, just one of a number of unique qualities about this strange boutique theater tucked away on the second floor of the Las Vegas Hilton's showroom.

The Giordano Theatre opened on May 14 with four movies on its schedule, none of which you've probably heard of: Reach for Me, American Sunset, The Outlaw Emmett Deemus and Amanda. That's because Giordano's mission is to showcase independent and especially "inspiring" films, and to use this renovated banquet room (now fitted with 60 theater-quality seats in four tiered rows, Dolby 7.2 sound and digital projection) as a launching pad for his own nationwide distribution of some of those films. Giordano says that Reach for Me, which he produced himself, will open around the country in about 120 theaters within a few weeks.

There isn't much of an audience here yet, though. Giordano says he's been getting about 15 people a day spread across the seven daily showings, mostly thanks to Hilton casino hosts who comp tickets and the in-house advertising at the hotel. I sit through the first three showings of the day alone in the comfortable theater, and while I'm impressed by the facilities and appreciative of the free popcorn that comes with each $12 ticket (it also includes a two-for-one cocktail offer, $10 match play in the casino and a two-for-one offer for Giordano's Hilton production show, Voices), I can't say I'm exactly taken with any of the movies.

The showings rotate daily, and today starts off with Amanda, an indie dramedy about a lonely guy who falls in love with a seemingly perfect woman, only to discover some shocking secrets about her. It's the kind of thing that might fill a slot in a second-rate film festival, be viewed indifferently by a handful of people and then quickly forgotten. It lurches awkwardly from strained comedy to overwrought drama, and none of the actors can sell either one.

Amanda

After Amanda comes The Outlaw Emmett Deemus, which is actually a program of short films written by and starring veteran character actor Larry Hankin, mostly as the title character, an eccentric motorcycle-riding scofflaw. The collection ranges from amusing oddities to amateurish meanderings, although it does give a sense of Hankin as a unique creative personality. According to Giordano, Hankin hopes to get an Emmett Deemus feature off the ground, but I have a hard time imagining the character being tolerable for more than 10-minute chunks.

Next is Giordano's own pet project, and Reach for Me is certainly the best movie the theater is playing right now. It's professionally produced, with a cast full of talented, recognizable actors (including Seymour Cassel, Alfre Woodard, Adrienne Barbeau and LeVar Burton, who also directed). It's also sappy, heavy-handed and predictable, with a story about an irascible old-timer (Cassel) dying of cancer, who comes to appreciate life thanks to his youthful (and also terminal) new hospice roommate.

A trio of hotel guests join me for the last showing I'm here to see, the moronic thriller American Sunset, notable only for featuring Corey Haim's final performance. Haim's death was tragic, but that doesn't change the fact that he's a terrible actor, and Sunset is a bunch of haphazard nonsense with elements ripped off from the Saw movies and various kidnapping dramas. My fellow patrons, however, love it, and plan to return for more movie showings later.

I'd like to see Giordano's experiment succeed, because we could use more alternative film venues in Vegas, and I give him credit for trying something different. But with standards that favor "positive content" and a submission system that involves a hefty fee for filmmakers to get their features considered for placement, it may not be exactly the arthouse theater local film fans have hoped for.

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