Opinion: West Side Story Vandalized

Does no one remember what an overture is anymore?

Went to the Dole Cannery 18 theaters last night for a special 50th anniversary screening of West Side Story. It’s one of my favorite movies, I’ve watched it many times, but had never seen it on the big screen. Unfortunately, I still haven’t, not entirely. Let me explain.

Things got off to a rough start. Good thing we arrived early because we spent 20 minutes at the concession stand, despite it having a short line, just to get snacks. Dole—please staff up. Or pare down the menu. What’s the point of offering everything from pizza to corn dogs if you can’t sling it out any faster?

We settled into our seats. Enjoyed a half-hour retrospective on the making of the film. Then … the room darkened, and West Side Story began, as it does, with a nearly five-minute overture. Just the main musical themes of the film, played over an abstract mid-century rendering of New York City as scratchy lines over a field of shifting colors.

That’s when the music stopped, the image froze. The audience murmured. An on-screen menu came up and we watched helplessly as somebody fast-forwarded through the entire overture!

Are you kidding me, Dole? I don’t know who did it, someone up in the projectionist booth or someone on the Mainland (these special screenings appear to be beamed in digitally), but that person needs 50 lashes with a strip of 70mm movie film. The overture is not a screen saver. It’s not a “boring part” that needs to be fast-forwarded. It sets up the entire experience of the film. And the kind of people to whom you sold $12.50 tickets to watch West Side Story on its 50th anniversary are exactly the kind of people who are going to get upset about this.

The Dole Cannery 18 hosts a regular schedule of such events produced by NCM Fathom, which provides specialty entertainment to digital theaters nationwide. Coming up this month at Dole are special screens of Twilight: Eclipse (Nov. 15), Don Giovanni performed by The Metropolitan Opera (Nov. 16), and more. See the full schedule here.

Operas? Let’s hope no one decides to fast-forward through all the stuff they think is boring.