FRACTURED FLICKS: DUMB, DUMBER, and DUMBEST PROGRAMMING IS NOT WHAT THE CITY OR THE DEVELOPER PROMISED FOR PITTSFIELD’s BEACON CINEMA. SO WHAT? WHY SHOULD ANOTHER BROKEN PROMISE FLOOR YOU?
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI Arts and Commentary
When South County developer Richard Stanley proposed a movie complex for the Kresge Building in downtown Pittsfield, THE PLANET was all for it, providing it was a capitalistic venture. As details emerged, however, it became clear that the city of Pittsfield and Stanley had in mind the dreaded quasi, public-private crossbreed.
We can scarce recall such a venture that didn’t punish the “public,” i.e., the taxpaying public. When the deal works out, the private sector reaps virtually all the benefits. When it doesn’t, guess who gets stuck bailing out the sinking boat?
Films for Those with the IQs of Lima Beans
A year after its opening, the jury is still out as to whether Beacon Cinema in downtown Pittsfield will last the long haul. Too many downtown businesses have failed in the last year, with at least three others on the brink of folding, for anyone to say. With a track record of one year, however, we can state that Stanley, the businessman, has gone back on his promise to the community that the Beacon would be a kind of Triplex North — that is, it would show a steady lineup of quality films of artistic merit that would appeal to serious viewers of cinema, what I call the “Kubrick Klatsch.”
The KK derives its name from direcor Stanley Kubrick, whose films never ceased to challenge audiences and push the Art of Film ever forward.
Instead of such “Little Cinema” or “Images” type programming, Stanley the pragmatist has resorted to “DDD Programming,” for Dumb, Dumber, and Dumbest. The Beacon revealed its colors from the literal get-go when it scrapped its promises and premiered with one of the wretched Twilight films. Since then, it’s been a sell-out to the lowest common denominators of vacuous pop culture — films fit for people with IQs of lima beans and all the artistic curiosity of a man vomiting. DDD, apparently, is what sells.
Understandable Flick Failure, but Flick Failure Nonetheless.
THE PLANET predicted this would happen. When Stanley pledged a mix of artistic and commercials programming, we said there weren’t a lot of Stanley Kubricks out there. We questioned whether The Beacon could provide this programming and remain in business. We were right.
When we do get a Kubrick-worthy director such as Terrence Malik, and he gives us a film as phenomenal as Tree of Life, we must see it in Great Barrington. Pittsfield isn’t a Tree of Life crowd, which is to say, Stanley’s pop programming for the Beacon is as understandable as it is, sadly, necessary. His accommodation to the low-brow confirms what those in the know “know” about Pittsfield: It’s a poor, blue-collar town, with little industry and even less hope.
Hope? Who’s He? That’s What the GOBs Have Done to the Beautiful City
Why should The Little Guy have hope? GE left the air, ground, and water polluted and got away relatively untouched. Even now, politicians are afraid of reopening the Consent Decree and going after GE in the courts. Taxes are going up almost 5 percent. The tax base shrinks at a rate of wool in water. Pittsfield’s daily newspaper is owned by a bankrupt company based in Denver, with local management that pushes the agenda of the Good Old Boys. Pittsfield’s politicians tend toward the No Show Speranzo type, characterless louts who fill their porcine craws with the public’s gravy.
That’s what the GOB’s have done to the city. It took 30 years, a generation, to run it down, but the way they raped the public finally has reached critical mass. Unless there is a radical shift in how politics are done in the city, starting with the budget, we can pronounce: “It’s Over.”
With a municipal election coming up, we can at least offer the flicker of hope contained in that previous sentence, found in the word “Unless.”
Forget Blame; It’s Time to Listen to the Doctor
THE PLANET doesn’t blame Stanley. As a developer, he tries not to use his own resources while spreading the risk to others. He found city and state politicians only too eager to offer John and Jane Public as his venture capitalists. As a businessman, Stanley’s doing DDD programming because he feels it’s his only option.
THE PLANET cannot blame the mayor. We understand, though didn’t agree with, Mayor Jimmy Ruberto’s push for culture and arts as the low-hanging fruit. The year-round audience for pricey, upscale restaurants, lodging, and entertainment isn’t in Pittsfield, but with failure to revive the city economically, the Ruberto Administration made a desperate gamble on creating a recreation-and-resort economy from whole cloth. The gamble failed.
Stanley’s apparent need to go back on his word, as evidenced in the sell-out nature of the Beacon’s moribund programming, is symptomatic of the underlying cause of ALL of these ills: A lack of high-paying, good-benefit jobs and the lack of an educated workforce. It leaves Pittsfield in a snake-eating-its-tail situation. Without the workforce, companies won’t come here. Without the companies, the workforce won’t develop. Add to this the thoroughly corrupt nature of “No Show” local and state politics, and one sees bee keeping as perhaps the only viable option.
THE PLANET has many times outlines solutions to affect positive change for Pittsfield. These have come in the areas of economics, education, politics, culture, and more. Our critics deliberately ignore THE PLANET’s messages and attack the messenger. We are the doctor, who driven by compassion and concern — love, even — continuing to give the patient honest advice. We find the patient in critical condition. Only when the patient begins to take our prescribed medicine can there be a reasonable basis of hope for recovery.
COMING LATER, MORE PROGRAMMING, INCLUDING OUR REVIEW OF THE BERKSHIRE THEATRE FESTIVAL’s PRODUCTION OF “TOMMY” AT THE COLONIAL THEATER. THAT AND MORE ON THE PLANET.
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE”
LOVE TO ALL.