Monday, January 21, 2013

Maruya Gardens Theater

Maruya Gardens is a department store on Tram Street, in the Tenmonkan shopping complex. In a way, it's more like a mall, in that each department has its own shop name and they seem to run independently of each other. I often visit the grocery store in the basement, and the bookstore on the 5th and 6th floors. The 7th floor is referred to as the rooftop garden, partly because half the floor is an outdoor plaza. There's a couple restaurants or eateries in the indoor space, plus a small art theater in what looks like a repurposed maintenance closet.

Entrance to the theater.

My interest this time was the George Melies special (poster in the upper right on the above sandwich board). George was a French illusionist and filmmaker, and he accidentally discovered the idea of trick film in 1896. This led to a career in producing quality special effects films from his garden movie studio up until 1908 or so. His most famous work was A Trip to the Moon (1902), which unfortunately wasn't protected by international copyright, and he lost out on the money made by American film pirates. He eventually ran up against "talkies" (movies with sound), and could no longer compete, and went bankrupt around 1913. By the 1920's, he was reduced to selling candy and toys at one of the French train stations. However, renewed interest in film and film history resulted in his being "discovered" by some newspaper reporters, and he was invited to take part in the film industry again following 1929. He died from cancer in 1938. Maruya Gardens had decided to show a 1-hour documentary that started out as a biography of Melies, before turning into a "how we restored A Trip to the Moon from the only existing black and white reel, plus bits and pieces from later hand-colored reels". After the documentary, they showed the fully restored 14-minute "A Trip to the Moon", with an original rock soundtrack.

The theater is essentially the size of an American living room, with a ceiling-mounted slide projector and quad speakers. Seating for a little over 36 people. 1,500 yen for adults, but you can get a 200 yen discount if you have a same-day receipt from one of the other shops.

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