Monday, October 29, 2018

Secret Movie Club Isn't Much of A Secret Anymore

by Jonathan Bilski

Craig Hammill creator of Secret Movie Club
Vista Theater was where is started and where it happens today, still in LA. It's the Secret Movie Club and it's not so secret anymore.

Secret Movie Club
Secret Movie Club Eventbrite Screenings
Official Twitter 

SPECIAL HALLOWEEN 35mm THE EVIL DEAD (1981 Sam Raimi classic!)
Wed, October 31, 2018
9:45 PM – 11:45 PM
Vista Theatre
4473 Sunset Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90027

It's an average day in LA, it's Friday and I only have about 30 minutes to talk to Craig. He is about to get ready for a screening hours before it happens for his club, that really isn't much of a secret. Craig Hammill is the creator and the man running Secret Movie Club.

"The first movie we showed in April 2016 was one of my all time favorites, Raiders of the Lost Ark. And we did that on 35mm. And I started doing it once a month. And then it built [up]. And then we went to three or four times a month. And then once a weekend." Craig told me. He added he now does six to nine showings a month. But it may go down, it just depends on the people coming.

*all films for Secret Movie Club are 35mm

Secret Movie Club isn't just one person anymore. Craig told me that people started approaching him after showings. And listening to them and talking with them, he now has about seven people working with him to make Secret Movie Club. And hopefully down the road with his small group Secret Movie Club could expand into more with a devoted site and a podcast.

I straight up ask Craig why it's called Secret Movie Club, his answer, "It started out as a word-of-mouth thing." Going back to his college years, Hammill invented the name Secret Movie Club for friends to just go over to someone's house and see a movie not seen by others before. People might pre-screen the film for what Craig would call "level of awesomeness" to make sure the movie was good enough. This would occur only five to six time a year. They might have screened a Japanese samurai movie no one had heard of or some foreign feature not well known to the public. Movie Club members came together, watched a movie, drank some beer and then talked about the film. 

Years later, the process continued as an e-mail list. Craig eventually got a theater to play his movies for the club, but only at the midnight time slot. That theater was of course The Vista, which is where screenings go on currently.

Craig made it a point that the e-mail list is still the main way to hear about the screenings. It gets news on shows before Twitter and other social media. Via word-of-mouth was another claim from Craig that gets people into the seats of The Vista. Now anyone with Internet can buy tickets via Eventbrite.

Vista is Secret Movie Club's home, because it was the only theater that would let Craig do it. Craig told me he looked around, had grand dreams of downtown LA's movie palaces. Then he saw the price tags. The owner of The Vista cut him a deal for a trial run for a midnight showing. Craig didn't go over the numbers, but it worked. And Vista became the go to for the club.

Praises for the theater and it's Egyptian look sprang out of Craig, he was glad to find a home for his screenings in a small, but great looking theater.

Parking. There is none.

Alien is by GARAGELAND.NET When Harry Met Sally is by CHEEKYDESIGN.COM
and Star Trek 2 is by a designer named BVRM
If you're planning on going to one of the screenings. Take an Uber or Lyft or be prepared to walk a few blocks. Craig suggests going on Sunset Drive and going past the first two cross streets near the theater, then, you'll eventually find parking. It's a downside, but it's the truth about seeing a show there...even at midnight.

Limited edition posters, people! One of the coolest aspects of Secret Movie Club is what Craig told me next. "For every movie we do, we have an original limited edition poster." He doesn't have the same artist do them all. He has his group of about 8 artists he knows, but is open to new artist. If interested you got to find his e-mail or meet him in person and have a portfolio online to look at. If you do get picked as an artist, you"ll start with one poster, be paid, and they'll play it from there.

A question about showing cult movies compared to major hits went into a lengthy history over the Roger Corman Shogun Assassin and the original films. Craig was nerding out over movie trivia. It was telling of him being a real fan. He also works in the industry, no surprise as it's LA. Eventually, he tells me, "So you're watching this weird, bloody, crazy, gonzo Samurai movie about a Dad and his son kicking ass across feudal Japan. And then the kid is like [in voice-over], 'My father seems melancholy,'." He's laughing at the poorly cut trailer he's talking about and so am I. Craig is totally absorbed into the movies that are to be shown. He deeply cares about them and that's how they're chosen ...with some numbers if people will actually come out and see them.

"You never know what you're gonna get, but they"ll always be good" is what Craig hopes people walk away with from his screenings.

"We really want to be a film community," Craig tells me. He loves having conversations with other film fans. He brings up a new feature of Secret Movie Club, something hopefully with a better name at this point, Movie Club Conversation On Problematic Movies,  Nov 24 at the Loz Feliz 3. Yes, just a discussion group talking about bad movies because of director's getting into trouble or possible racism from ten years ago. People are already RSVPing for it.

For a more easy-going time you have day screenings. Matinees have started up for early weekend mornings for those who want to get to bed early. The Club is not only for those with a night life, but families too now.

Before each movie starts Craig gets up and talks to the audience. He says what movies he's thinking of showing, gives out a free poster and goes over a little trivia. So, welcome him when you see him and maybe suggest a movie you want to see that somehow has not been screened in a LA theater in the last few months.

It's no secret, you should try and be a member of the club for one midnight showing.