One of the great summer debates is the "inside or outside" dilemma. You know, you get to your destination and then everyone's chirping, "Should we sit inside or outside?" I always choose outside. Our good friends in Hollywood would like us to believe that we should be inside, however. They want us in with the $5 licorice and frigid air conditioning." Forget it, I'll go to movies in the winter. Or so I thought. Using a juxtaposition not seen since the heyday of the drive-in theater, Satchel's Grill in downtown Boise changed my mind.
Satchel's presents movies on their patio Wednesday through Saturday, May through October. Two movies show a week with one movie filling in the Wednesday/Friday slots and the other movie on Thursdays and Saturdays. It's a great idea: Eat dinner, watch a movie and hang out in the heart of downtown-outside.
My little brother Brady and I went down to Satchel's last Thursday at around 8:30 p.m. At dusk, an old Andy Griffith episode started playing on the wall. It was huge. Opie's head was as big as a door. I was into it. Aunt Bee and her buddies were getting all hopped up on a magic elixir that some shady character was selling in Mayberry. When the sheriff got the mess cleaned (and Aunt Bee and her cronies sobered up) the main feature came on, the Coen brothers Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? There was a great buzz in the air as I looked around at the tables. There were people of all ages: families, couples, smart aleck brothers ... A table of high-schoolers next to us sang the "Big Rock Candy Mountain" song as the intro credits rolled. Dapper Dan, Pete and Delmar kept us laughing into late into the warm August night.
Even though I have seen Oh Brother a bunch of times, watching it on the big screen (wall) at Satchel's made it seem fresh and new and the crowd made the laughter infectious. There was an enjoyable, surreal quality to the experience. Cars would rush by on Bannock street, but they seemed a million miles away. There were a few clouds and a beautiful, waning moon in the sky. The best part? The great food, beer and wine that Satchel's serves. It sure beats $10 for soggy popcorn and watered down root beer. It especially beats trying to sneak a Jamba Juice into a theater.
During intermission, I chatted with a few customers. "Its really unique," says Matt Williams, a berry gardener from Emmett. "Satchel's is the only place I know of with outdoor movies. It's cool because I can come down and see my friends." And lucky for Matt, Satchel's showed one of his favorite movies last week, Gross Pointe Blank. Tom Howard, a local student, says he comes down a lot. "Last summer, I came down every Saturday. There aren't many places where you can watch a good movie, eat good food and hang outside ... and the food here is really good!"
After Ulysses found his treasure and the mopvie ended, I was able to catch up with Satchel's owner Dominic DeLaquil to chat about the whole restaurant/movie dichotomy. "I opened Satchels grill in November of 2003 as a fulfillment of a longtime dream," said DeLaquil. "I called it Satchel's after the nickname my Italian dad dubbed me." Immediately after opening, DeLaquil gave the restaurant culture by inviting local artists to show their work on the interior walls (every month a new artist shows their work) and by booking live music. In the spring of 2004, with the inertia of a newly opened restaurant and longer days, DeLaquil looked to the walls of the roomy patio in front of Satchels and hatched a plan. He would show movies outside.
DeLaquil soon found out that to show movies at his restaurant he would have to clear some hurdles, the most important being the FBI warning seen at the beginning of every rented movie. This did not dissuade Dominic. He still wanted to show movies. At first he decided he would have to stick with public domain stuff-basically old movies that are no longer required to give the Hollywood kickback. Then, with some research, he found a company that specializes in non-theatrical film distribution. The gist of it is, you pay a bit extra to rent the movie and the company makes sure Hollywood gets their royalties. "To show a movie legally ... it costs a lot more than just renting a movie at the local video store," says Delaquil.
With a movie supplier in tow, Delaquil quickly cleared the other hurdles such as finding the right projector and purchasing a PA for sound. He kicked off the first weekend last June and realized he was on to something good. "Reception was great," he says of that first weekend. "People came up to me that first night saying things like, 'Thank you so much for doing this ... this is so great in Boise.'" Dominic filled up the first season with a mix of old classics and newer stuff. When the season came to a close he started working on 2005. "Every day last winter someone would come in asking about the movies and when we were going to start showing them again," says DeLaquil.
For the 2005 movie calendar, DeLaquil canvassed customers and friends asking what they would want to see. A wet spring and early summer was a bit of a deterrent, but once the nights got warmer, Dominic's patio began filling up. His biggest hits this year have been Raiders of the Lost Ark and Casablanca (I can't believe it wasn't Tommy Boy). He has also thrown in the occasional curve-ball, most notably a showing of Dark Side of the Rainbow, that urban legend combination of Wizard of Oz and Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon. I bet food sales were pretty good that night.
Delaquil has also started incorporating the community into his vision. On September 8 and 9, in collaboration with the Idaho Commission of the Arts, Satchels will show the documentary Why the Cowboy Sings, made by the founder of Elko's Western Folklife Center, Hal Cannon. Cannon, a legend in cowboy poetry circles, will be on hand to give an introduction to the movie. On September 27 and October 1, Satchels and the Log Cabin Literary Center present the movie Devil in a Blue Dress; this showing will dovetail with the talk that Walter Mosely (author of Devil in Blue Dress) is giving at the Egyptian Theatre on September 27.
Delaquil has other plans for community building projects. "I want to start doing a locals film festival at Satchels. There are so many local filmmakers in the area ... I am always open to showing something if it is made by someone from the area," says DeLaquil.
Satchel's official movie season will end the last weekend in October with a showing of the ultra-scary The Shining. In the meantime, there are plenty of great movies to be seen in the coming months: The Godfather on September 17 and Goonies on September 30. When the official season ends, Delaquil still plans on keeping moving images on his patio walls. He has purchased heaters to keep patrons warm and plans on showing football, the World Series and the Winter Olympics. Around Christmas, he also plans on showing some Christmas-themed movies such as Christmas Story.
I may never watch a movie indoors again.