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Dispatches from Kansas City, day 1

April 16, 2010

I used to scoff at the concept of paying more for a ticket just to sit in comfier theater seats and have an “upgraded” theatrical experience. I was wrong.

Walking into the stunning AMC Mainstreet in Kansas City to kick off my Kansas City Film Festival experience, where I have been asked to sit on the jury and a Film Festival Strategies panel, I was blown away by the lobby complete with a full bar, unique vending system for sodas and toppings (I will get pictures, I swear!) and famous movie quotes etched into the marble floors. The bathrooms have the images of famous actresses on murals and even etched into the individual vanity mirrors in each stall (I gazed into the eyes of Bette Davis as I washed my hands). It was all a lot of fun and a great design for a theater, but I figured since AMC Corporate is based here, the theaters likely have some unique looks.

But then I went into the theater. Oh boy.

The theater in the round design with overstuffed leather chairs and a screen that covers the entire wall would be enough but the chairs also shake with lower bass notes in the film score. You can get completely lost in a movie – the perfect cinematic experience – except for the guy talking behind me, not even AMC can stop that.

But if that is not enough for the moviegoer, you can pay $25 for the upstairs élite theaters that provide a smaller venue and larger chair (looks like an overstuffed recliner with its own table) as well as a full menu. I’m not quite ready to upgrade that far yet, but, I have to admit it will be a struggle to return home to the usual theater arrangement.

I kicked off the festival with a curated non-competition documentary, I Am Comic, that looks at what it means to be a stand up comedian, with a follow-up Q&A with director Jordan Brady who shared that the film has been picked up for a television première on Showtime this summer and then a DVD release this fall. The film plays next at the Atlanta Film Festival on Monday – and I highly recommend it.

Small world note: I looked to my right during the Q&A and saw someone wearing a University of Mississippi t-shirt. Turns out, it was Mike Walter who showed “Breaking News, Breaking Down” in Oxford on Monday and is now back to his hometown to show the film as part of the fest on Saturday at 12:45 p.m.

I caught the “Criminal Shorts” block after the Q&A and enjoyed “Soap,” about a woman whose affair turns for the worse and she is dragged into a quite the mess.

Small world note two: Was watching “Yardbyrds” during the block and heard a familiar sound. One of the key songs in the film is from Oxford’s own Colour Revolt.

There are a lot of similarities between Kansas City and the mid-south, first and foremost the BBQ, but also the hospitality, the sweet or unsweet tea (not just in the South, who knew!), and a great love of the arts from jazz to independent cinema. Overall, a fun town. I look forward to what weird coincidences may come up in day two!

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