Holiday season films are the gifts that keep on giving, particularly at The Flicks. Pound-for-pound, nearly every movie booked between November and February at Boise's go-to film showcase has been a sure-bet Oscar nominee.
"That has been the case for a while now," said Flicks owner Carole Skinner. "Honestly, I wish the movie studios could spread them out a bit. This time of year I wish I had six screens."
What opened with one screen in September 1984 grew to two in 1988 and doubled to four in 1997. Now, between Thanksgiving and Valentine's Day every year—particularly on weekends—The Flicks is a packed house. The nationally-owned multiplexes may be showing Star Wars VII, but there are still quite a few empty seats at those 20-screen megaplexes. Meanwhile, The Flicks, with its current slate of The Big Short, Brooklyn, Carol, The Danish Girl and Spotlight has been attracting capacity crowds. Each of those films is expected to make Oscar's shortlist when the Motion Picture Academy reveals its nominees on Thursday, Jan. 14. Sometime between now and Sunday, Feb. 28, the award season's ebb and flow should reach high tide, and that usually means an embarrassment of riches for The Flicks. More Oscar hopefuls will be on their way to the Flicks in the next few weeks, including 45 Years, Anomalisa, Son of Saul and the much-anticipated bundle of Oscar-nominated short films.
"It's rather hard to keep so many good films. For instance, there's so much talk about Brooklyn and Spotlight right now that I have them sharing the same screen, alternating showtimes," said Skinner. "Each week, we have to look at the grosses and somehow have to make room for another great film—or perhaps two more."
Skinner's task was probably never more challenging than when she had to say goodbye to Room, the critically acclaimed drama that has launched its leading lady, Brie Larson, to Hollywood's A-list. Larson picked up the Golden Globe for best actress in a drama, vaulting her film to the top of moviegoers' must-see list.
"But we ran Room for four full weeks in November to relatively low box office results," said Skinner. "Now, I have so many people calling to ask, 'How come you're not playing Room? I've heard it's an award-winner.' And my answer is, 'We played it for four weeks. Where were you?'"
Now, Skinner is taking the rare step of making room for Room one more time, bringing the film back to The Flicks, beginning Friday, Jan.15.
"That's how crazy this business is," Skinner said.
Squeezing five or more films onto four screens is only one of Skinner's latest challenges as she continues to manage an entertainment venue in the shadow of a massive construction project: The Inn at 500 Capitol, a $25 million seven-story hotel being built next door.
"They're saying it will be 108 rooms, but they'll only have 24 parking spaces. Of course, that means we're going to have to be much more vigilant about our parking lot," said Skinner. "And just a few weeks ago, we lost all of our power for 18 hours because they accidentally blew up a transformer. We had to cancel all of our screenings. But once these new hotels are built [a 10-story hotel is also under construction across Myrtle Street], it gentrifies the neighborhood, so that can't be all bad."
The big box office surprise of the holiday season, according to Skinner, was probably Brooklyn, the wildly popular romantic drama about a young Irish girl immigrating to America.
"I can't tell you how many people have told us how much they adore Brooklyn," she said. "But even when a show is sold out, our box office staff is great about recommending another choice. In fact, we try to stagger the screen times in our larger theaters, just in case one show is sold out in a smaller theater. That way, we can say, 'You'll probably love this other film, and there are a few seats left for you.' It always works out."
When Boise Weekly spoke to Skinner, she was in Palm Springs lining up to screen another new film at the resort community's major annual film festival and continuing to build her slate of coming attractions for 2016.
"We've seen some pretty great films here and we're already getting set to book them," she said as the line got closer to the theater door. "Things are so great for The Flicks right now, and the films just keep coming."