At a time when movie theaters can’t open, how do you create the moviegoing experience? It isn’t easy.
In-person movie premieres were put on hold 10 months ago, as many theaters closed (temporarily, we all hope) out of caution over the spread of coronavirus. One highly anticipated film, “A Quiet Place Part II,” even had a splashy premiere in New York City last March, mere days before the city lockdown was implemented. Still unreleased, it’s now slated to open this April.
As some theaters opened around the country, with social distancing measures in place, film premieres moved along with so many other events into a virtual space. Meanwhile, studios and audiences found ways to improvise in the new moviegoing reality. In December, “Wonder Woman 1984” scored the biggest opening weekend gross since the pandemic began, thanks in large part to privately-booked multiplex screenings.
Other audiences found even more clever ways to replicate the movie theater – indeed even the movie premiere – experience. Even Hollywood crew members, known for their ingenuity, took things to the next level. David Fincher’s “Mank,” the black-and-white drama about the screenwriter of “Citizen Kane,” wrapped principal photography a few weeks before the COVID outbreak in the U.S., and when the film became available to stream late in 2020 on Netflix, its costume designer Trish Summerville had an idea. She decided to bring a bit of the movie’s Hollywood style and glamour to her own Southern California backyard.
“The night that ‘Mank’ premiered, we got a projector and hung a big sheet in between two banana trees in the backyard,” Summerville explained to TheWrap. “So that we could actually see it and experience it. We got popcorn and champagne and watched this great film about Hollywood, with palm trees all around us.”
Summerville, whose credits include “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” and Fincher’s “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” (“I don’t seem to get the easy ones,” she said with a laugh), posted a striking shot from the evening on her Instagram account — with the film’s opening title reflected on a glassy pool surface, backgrounded by a dark lavender sky.
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Summerville credits her wife, actress Lauren Glazier (“Mindhunter”), with the DIY grandeur of the scene. “She’s really good with setting up scales, so she got the projector and the screen and said, ‘Let’s do this right.'” On Summerville’s Instagram post, Glazier duly commented with lightning, fire, and heart emojis, and an all-caps, F-bomb laced exclamation of praise for her spouse.
They were joined by three other friends, Summerville said, including a onetime assistant director. “She’s a friend of ours who’s a timeless woman and a big Fincher fan. And then we all socially distanced in the backyard for the movie. Everyone brought their own cups for the champagne.”
Summerville’s rich and imaginative costume design for “Mank” has put her name near the top of experts’ lists in the awards conversation, as the season progresses towards April’s Oscars. (The eligibility period spans from January 2020 to February 28, 2021.) This personal screening experience, Summerville said, buoyed her feelings about cinema itself. “I still remember how exhilarated I felt after seeing [Fincher’s] ‘The Social Network’ in a movie theater for the first time, and that was ten years ago now. ‘Mank’ is really a timeless film and it meant to watch it up on a screen, even in our backyard.”