May 25, 2016

Late Night at Mission Valley Cinema

There is a theater in west Raleigh where Lee Van Cleef — the spaghetti western legend — is an A-list movie star. Where John Carpenter is a properly feted genius. Where slasher and blaxploitation films are the equal of film noir.

Mission Valley Cinema presented Van Cleef’s The Big Gundown (1966) and then a late night screening of Friday the 13th a few days later on Friday the 13th amid big studio releases like Captain America: Civil War, The Jungle Book and Money Monster. About 70 horror fans howled at the 1980 slasher classic — 95 minutes of blood, POV shots and Harry Manfredini’s screeching score.

“There’s just something about watching a movie late at night,” says Denver Hill, business manager for Ambassador Entertainment and curator of Mission Valley’s Late Night series. “It’s just different than during the middle of the day.”

The Late Night series is presented on the second and fourth Friday of every month, while the theater’s Cinema Overdrive series screens on the second Wednesday. Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13 (1976) is set for this Friday at 11:30 p.m. Admission is $5.

The theater’s Late Night and Cinema Overdrive series are retro movie-watching — a pre-CGI refuge for cinephiles and fans of rough, tough drive-in movies from the 1960s, 70s and 80s. The kind of place that the two private investigators in The Nice Guys might frequent.

“For most of us, it’s about seeing these movies for the first time on the big screen,” says Adam Hulin, who runs the Cinema Overdrive series. “They weren’t meant to be seen at home on TV. It’s just different.”

The current incarnation of the series began at The Colony in north Raleigh in 2009. When that theater closed at the end of last year, Hill asked Hulin to bring the series to Mission Valley.

“Denver gave us carte blanche to play good audience crowd-pleasers,” Hulin says. “We’ve had a few shows where nobody in the audience has seen the movie before, but they trust us enough to not lead them astray. So far, they haven’t revolted.”

Hulin selected The Big Gundown. A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin (1971) — another Italian picture — is scheduled for next month. Sam Peckinpah’s Cross of Iron (1977) is set for July with Truck Turner (1974) starring Isaac Hayes coming in August. Hulin hints at a surprise in October to commemorate the 100th Cinema Overdrive film.

“They put a tombstone there for the 35 mm projector,” Hulin says after the latest screening, looking at the big artifact in the lobby. “I hate that, but time marches on.”

Or stands still. At least a few times a month at Mission Valley Cinema.
— Kevin Brewer

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