Not since Sensurround, a special-effects gimmick that rattled audiences watching Earthquake in 1974, has cinema been quite as visceral as it was on May 14 at downtown Burlington's Roxy. People attending a Sunday afternoon matinee of Poseidon, which involves a tidal wave, noticed that life had begun to imitate art. Patrons at two other films were also affected when things got decidedly wet.
"Our water heater on the second floor burst," says Merrill Jarvis III, who operates the movie house. "The pipe that fed it didn't have a shut-off valve, so my employees couldn't stop the flood. "
The culprit was unseen rust on the bottom of the 80-gallon tank, installed during the building's 1981 construction under different ownership. City firefighters came to the rescue, putting buckets in the lobby and calling the electric department to cut power before the system went snap, crackle and pop. Jarvis covered his seats with plastic bags.
"We had 5 inches of water on the projection room floor and 100 ceiling tiles came crashing down," he notes. "Luckily, everybody evacuated safely. They took it in stride. We gave them all passes."
Jarvis hired the cleanup company Servpro, which brought in dehumidifiers and sand to dry the carpets. He replaced the tiles and purchased a new water heater, with shut-off valves. The Roxy was ready to reopen 48 hours after the deluge.
"Even though there was no damage to the screens, projectors and sound equipment, it could cost me up to $30,000," Jarvis acknowledges. "But I'm totally insured."
And the inundation didn't keep him from proceeding with the launch of a new online ticketing service - at http://www.merrilltheatres.net  - for advance credit card sales. The show must go on.
The First Peoples' Festival, now in its 16th year, is a Native Canadian extravaganza of art exhibits, literary events and guest speakers. A segment devoted to motion pictures will unspool at two reserves, Kahnesatake - a.k.a. Oka - in Québec on May 27 and Kahnawake in southeast Ontario on May 29, before moving to Montréal's National Film Board on June 2 and 3.
The roster of features and documentaries by indigenous filmmakers from around the world includes Indian Summer: The Oka Crisis. This English-language CBC television series looks back at an armed standoff in 1990 over a planned golf-course expansion that threatened an ancient burial ground and a pine forest considered sacred by Mohawks living nearby. The cast includes actors who have worked with Peacham director Jay Craven: former Lyndonville resident Tantoo Cardinal (Where the Rivers Flow North, among others) and Gary Farmer (Disappearances).
For more information on the fest, visit http://www.nativelynx.qc.ca  or call 514-278-4040.
Claudia Becker is a political junkie, but America's Republican-Democrat split did not influence the choice of names at her renovated Big Picture Theater in Waitsfield. Indies will be screened in "the red room" and mainstream films in "the blue room."
"It's no reflection of the country's divisions," she says. "One has red seats and the other has blue seats, that's all."
Whatever. Friday's reopening of her multifaceted venue, formerly called The Eclipse, will kick off three days of festivities. Becker is presenting the newly released Hoot, an environmental adventure suitable for families, and the Oscar-winning Crash, a taut drama about racism. Musical performances, cartoons for kids, dancing, juggling and food should provide additional enticements for holiday weekend celebrants. Call 496-8994 or check http://www.bigpicturetheater.info  for details.
The annual Baked Bead Sale, organized concurrently by a neighborhood jewelry store under a tent in the adjacent parking lot, always draws about 3000 people. "Maybe one-third of them will drop by the Big Picture," Becker predicts.
She envisions serving a variety of interests. The red room, which has only 40 permanent seats, can also accommodate live bands, bingo games or square dances. Weekday mornings during the school year, Becker is leasing it to the Open Hearth Community Center for playgroups and classes. Restoration work on the attached café should be completed by early July.
Her future Wednesday-through-Sunday film schedules will range from entertainment that's escapist but not mindless to provocative art-house fare. "I see this as a local gathering place that also addresses global issues," she says.
The project has been challenging for Becker, who is married to documentarian Eugene Jarecki (Why We Fight) and the mother of two small children. "It's an incredible commitment," she says. "I'm trying to find a magical balance."